Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’

Steve Austria’s History

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I can’t believe I missed this:

U.S. Rep. Steve Austria [R-OH] said he supports a scaled-down federal economic-stimulus proposal, but the Beavercreek Republican told The Dispatch editorial board that the huge influx of money into the economy could have a negative effect.


“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

Most historians date the beginning of the Great Depression at or shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929; Roosevelt took office in 1933.

A lot of people are running with this today as proof Austria doesn’t know basic American history, but I think you’ve got to be somewhat naive to think that someone who hadn’t paid enough attention in school to know a basic timeline of one of the defining events in the modern United States is also shrewd enough to find his way into the United States House of Representatives.

Rather, it should seem fairly obvious that what Austria meant to say was the Amity Shlaes line that the New Deal made the Depression worse, and his real problem is that he knows this is ridiculous. And because he knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t actually believe it himself, he mangles the line beyond recognition and says something so stupid the Republican friendly Columbus Dispatch can’t let it go. This is pretty standard stuff for the conservative movement’s communications operation; for the most part you have a bunch of crazy people who actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, but at the top and the margins you have people who know better, and are just using the know-nothing populist sentiment as a means to further their own ends. And every so often that disconnect leads hem to screw up and say something that no one with a high school diploma can take seriously. It’s one thing to argue something that seems incredibly counterfactual, that’s the sort of contrarianism the media eats up. It’s quite another thing to say something we all know isn’t true from Jr. High history. But the problem isn’t that Steve Austria is an idiot, it’s that he’s part of a craven, power hungry political movement that is willing to say absolutely anything to deceive people into furthering their cause.

Conservatives Will Be Hacks

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I’ve been interested for a while now in the “new conservatives,” the center-right, relatively young conservatives who are supposed to be more serious, sensible, less outrageous, and all around better than Jonah Goldberg. Guys like Ramesh Ponnuru, David Brooks, Yuval Levin, Ross Douthat, Patrick Ruffini, etc. So one thing I’ve been wondering is how the Obama era will impact their future directions, and whether or not they’ll be able to maintain a sense of seriousness, or whether being a total minority under a popular, liberal President will push them to embrace the broader right. If the first couple of weeks are any indication, it’s not looking good for the prospects of a “serious opposition.”

Patrick Ruffini actually suggested, with a straight face I assume, that the New York Times replace Bill Kristol with Rush Limbaugh on their Op-Ed page. David Brooks criticized the economic stimulus package by citing a non-existant CBO report, and despite writing two Times columns since, including another one about the stimulus bill, has not retracted this citation. And now Yuval Levin expects us to believe that the fact that Republicans voted against a popular bill supported by a popular President is bad news, for Democrats:

When they manage to unify the entire House Republican caucus with David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, you know the Democrats have seriously botched something up. And boy, they really have. The more you look at the stimulus bill the clearer it becomes that it is the Congressional Democrats, not the opponents of this bill, who have failed to see that we are in a genuine and exceptional crisis. They’re working to use the moment as an opportunity to advance the same agenda they haven’t been able to move (with good reason) for a decade and more, and in the process are showing that agenda to be what we always knew it was: a massively wasteful, reckless, profligate, slovenly, higgledy-piggledy mess of interest group troughs and technocratic fantasies devoid of any economic thinking or sense of proportion.

There’s just nothing you can say at this point. There’s always been a cocoon on the right, but the hope was that people like Brooks and Levin would help to open that up a bit, or at least marginalize its members. Instead, it looks like they’re creeping ever closer to the cocoon themselves, preferring to live in the rights alternate reality than the real world. Which is unfortunate, but not something we should really be surprised about.