Jan 10 2008

Mary Poppins Conservatives vs. Reality

Published by at 11:47 pm under 2008 Elections,All General Discussions

I was listening to one of the premier Mary Poppins Conservatives today – Mark Levin – as I circled the nations capitol driving the beltway back home from work. I think of these ‘pure’ conservatives as a bunch of Mary Poppins who are constantly measuring others while declaring how they are “practically perfect in every way”. They all have self defined tape measures which – surprise, surprise – shows them to be the “be all, end all” for conservatism in America.

It is amazing how these talking heads see themselves as perfection and all who disagree with them as lesser beings. Anyway, I am here to compliment Levin (to a point), not bury him in is self esteem. He had Senator Rick Santorum on and they were listing why John McCain (and probably Huckabee) is not a solid choice for the GOP. They listed why he was too liberal on all issues outside the war on terror. I agree that McCain is one of the worst choices – might as well support Obama.

I want to propose a much better measure of what a good candidate for the GOP could be by comparing the current options to the best the GOP has seen in a decade: George W Bush. If a candidate can stack up well to Bush on matters important to conservative then he cannot be all that bad. If they fall short (and McCain does on everything outside the War On Terror) then the GOP and conservative independents needs to look to someone else. So instead of Mary Poppins Conservatives, lets take the measure of a Bush Conservative:

The topics listed by Santorum and Levin are a great starting list. So let’s start there. We can compare McCain to Bush. A score of +1 is good, +2 excellent, -1 poor, -2 lousy, 0 is neither good nor bad. By definition Bush will probably be +2 on all issues as the one setting the standard.

(1): War On Terror – Bush set the standard and is an easy +2. McCain has stood by him on The Surge and squeaks out a +2 (McCain still pretends the war was mismanaged prior to The Surge).

(2): Tax Cuts – Bush also set the standard and gets an +2 (he did it with bipartisan support). McCain fought all the Bush tax cuts as handouts to the rich – abysmal -2.

(3): Immigration Reform – Bush gets a +1 for a good balanced approach which could gain bipartisan support. The only reason he missed a +2 is because he did not get it passed. McCain stood by Bush and gets a +2 (it is the one other area McCain is not abysmal on).

(4): Global Warming – Bush +2 for ignoring Kyoto and realizing the science was not settled. McCain gets a -2 for pushing man-made Global Warming and penalties for CO2 emissions (personally I think Congress should get their pay cut in half for all the useless hot air and advertising they produce).

(5): GITMO – Bush has withstood the ACLU and liberals in trying to extend Constitutional protections to those caught on the battlefield in a war where the enemy is trying to destroy our constitution, easy +2. McCain went lefty and aligned with the ACLU to pay for ACLU lawyers for al-Qaeda – a big -2.

(6): Importing Drugs – Bush has stood by our drug companies and brought their remedies to millions of senior citizens. He has protected our nation from the ludicrous concept of flooding our markets imported (thereby sinking our pharmaceutical business sector). Bush gets a +2. McCain has been waging a war on the drug companies with liberals – another -2.

(7): McCain-Fiengold – Bush signed it so he gets a -1 (that was the price for tax cuts or something else I am sure). McCain promoted it so he gets a -2.

(8): Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Bush defies the political pressure from the left and moderate right and protected tens of thousands of young humans from being fodder for experiments. I agreed with Santorum and Levin, how could you sanction an industry based on killing young humans and then pretend to be against one individual mother making a decision about one pregnancy. Bush gets a +2, McCain a -2.

(9): Judicial Appointments – Bush has done a bang up job on turing the Federal Courts back to a semblance of balance. The far right remember only one person – Harriet Miers. But Bush has seated tens of judges. +2. I worry about McCain, but he was instrumental in defusing a showdown on filibusters that we could need if Hillary or Obama get into office and we want to stop them from packing the courts with left wing fanatics. I am not sure McCain can be counted on to name the same quality judges as Bush given is liberal leanings – so only a +1.

(10): Federal Spending Bush put the onus on Congress to deal with a lot of the spending issues. But he did a lot better than Reagan did in controlling discretionary spending outside the military’s war effort. And McCain is a big opponent against ear-marks as well. I give them both a +2

So where did this all end up on a realistic measure of conservatism? If Bush is the standard (and he is a good one, he got all these issues in front of America and made progress and held that progress). Bush gets a combined score of 16 out a possible high of 20 and a possible low of -20. That is not a pure conservative – but a damn good one. Purity and perfection are myths, just like the practically perfect Mary Poppins!

Where did McCain come out? He scored a -5, which means he is a net loser for conservatives who are not amnesty hypochondriacs. (If you are a hypochondriac deduct 2 from both – but Bush is still a much better option when compared to McCain).

Here is the deal: there is no perfection and one overruling view in the GOP or in conservatism. I am a conservative. I am not a Pat Buchanan or Tancredo conservative. I will support conservatives as long as it is an alliance of mutual respect and honoring Democracy when losing a vote. Winning is easy. I have not scored Rudy yet, but my guess is he would score right with Bush, since he models himself as someone who will finish the work started. He is strong on the war on terror (+2), he is pragmatic on immigration knowing we need to beef up security AND deal with long term illegals (+2). He as proposed and excellent tax cut package (+2). He has promised to follow the Bush lead on constructionist appointments to the federal bench (+2). 4 out of 10 and he is doing well.

Huckabee would score right down with McCain on most issues (unless I added an topic on who is most involved with Church). I Romney loses on a lot of issues – including immigration. Where Bush gets +2’s Romney’s tentative approach would garner +1’s at most.

Folks, if you are one issue person you are not really doing your homework. There is no perfection. You have to take the good with the bad and hope good outweighs the bad. Score Hillary or Obama on the measures above and they come out -20. If it is +20 or nothing, then you are missing the point. There is no +20 – but the Dems are all running -20’s. Not nothing. We need candidates in the GOP who score well over zero.

With that said I don’t want McCain out of the GOP. He is an asset and a bridge to get bipartisan support. Where he is too liberal a big-tent GOP can offset his views. What we cannot be doing is lambasting candidates and GOP members who fail the Mary Poppins test – it is a ludicrous test. McCain is right on the War on Terror and Immigration. Levin and Santorum are probably right on more issues, but wrong on immigration. Welcome to the imperfection of the human race. What killed Bush and the GOP was when the talking hot-heads went over the cliff and started belittling Bush and moderates. America is not going to stand behind a President who has lost his base. If the base cannot muster support why should moderates? We need unity and not purity. Or to put it another way, we need reality and not fantasy.

So put away all those magical tape measures folks and try and find a candidate that can beat the liberal dems who inhabit the -20 level of promise to America.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Mary Poppins Conservatives vs. Reality”

  1. Mike M. says:

    AJ, I think you are making a mistake. You are assuming that Bush has been 100%. I’d assess him far lower…around 60%.

    He’s been disturbingly reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson – a domestic policy President trying to cope with a war, but unwilling to accept that a war means that domestic issues, and in particular domestic spending, have to go by the boards. Victory SHOULD come first…but for Johnson and Bush, it didn’t. If you doubt me, take a look at DOD end strength numbers and force structure.

    The big problem is that two years ago, there were two really plausible Republican candidates. Unfortunately, Jeb Bush was the President’s brother (if he were named Smith, Jeb would be the nominee by acclamation), and the Dems took George Allen out in the last election.

    I’ll support the Reoublican candidate…but have resigned myself to holding my nose as I do so. It’s an unappetizing field.

  2. AJStrata says:

    LOL! MikeM – did I give Bush a +20 (100%)? No, I gave him a +16 score. Too funny.

  3. wiley says:

    It’s a good exercise, and no surprise that AJ rates Bush higher than most conservatives would (more like a 10 for me). And that’s the point — while most repubs & conservatives are generally supportive of Bush, there’s no doubt that the ship veered leftward, unnecessarily in our view. Fed spending a +2? Bush didn’t find his veto pen until recently. McCain-Feingold is should be a -2 — he signed it! And of course immigration reform — good that he tried, but the bill he supported was an awful mess — so a zero. He had some very good judicial appts, just not enough of them and of course the Miers fiasco. (Bush does rate high on GWOT, taxes, GITMO, embryonic stem cell, and some other issues not listed – abortion, 2nd amendment, family values/marriage, trade, and also tried with social security.)

    Of the current crop of repub contenders, Thompson clearly seems to be the most conservative. I know Fred voted in favor of McCain-Feingold and I don’t know where he stood on ESCR, but otherwise he garners top marks. Romney would probably be next, with score probably close to Bush. Rudy would be next, but he gets high marks in the most important issues except abortion, but he claims he would nominate constructionist supremes. McCain & especially Huckabee would be way down, Huck more like a pro-life, family value dem. So where does that leave us? I say we try to nominate the best conservative who can win. AJ disagrees with this, or believes the best cosnervatives cannot win. I say why not? In elections past, when conservatives stand tall on their core principles they do extremely well in elections. On most of the key issues, moderates & conservatives are united – GWOT, taxes, Gitmo, judicial appts, illegal immigration/border security, family values/marriage, 2nd ammendment rights. Our nominee simply needs to articulate the message and be forthright (personable would help, too). This is the primary season — there’s passion in trying to nominate who we think can best lead our country. McCain & Huck are in good stead mainly because this train started in Iowa & NH. Like MikeM said above, I’ll vote for whoever the repubs nominate (barring some unforeseen scenario) over the dems, as I’m sure most will do.

    This “purity” talk is nonsense. I hear/read Laura & Michelle & NRO & Rush & Powerline and some of the others, and I just don’t see the over-the-top ranting picture like you paint. (Savage doesn’t count – he’s in his own corner, all-alone.) I think your reaction is worse. What hurt Bush was Bush – he dissed his base with run-away spending, McCain-Feingold, and a deaf ear on controlling the borders.

  4. dave m says:

    If you are casting a Republican primary ballot,
    you have to pick one of them. I am sending in my absentee
    ballot today to California. So which of these guys can
    actually win both the nomination and beat the democrats
    in the election?
    I used to think it was Rudy, but he is not going to win the
    nomination. Both Romney and Huckabee could win the
    nomination but either would lose the election, one because of
    his religion (not fair but real) and the other because of well,
    his religion (not fair but real)
    So I am voting for McCain, though I don’t like him either,
    but it’s not fair to say he is the same as Obama. Obama will
    surrender our country to the islamists, through naivety
    or intent, I don’t care, but I know he will not fight. McCain will
    fight and our survival over the next eight years is more important
    than any other issue – even immigration.

  5. Terrye says:

    If I remember right Santorum is not exactly doing well right now, so how did he get to be an expert?

    I understand what you are saying, but believe it or not McCain is not a lefty on terrorists, not in Gitmo or anywhere else. Saying you might as well vote for Obama is just strange, unless you are being sarcastic. And McCain has always been pro life, it is not something he just started doing.

  6. Terrye says:


    That is because the purists have not called you a traitor, yet. Stay on their good side and maybe they won’t.

    BTW, whatever hope there was of me reading Malkin again went out the window when she started stalking the Frosts, that was just nuts.

  7. AJStrata says:


    There are days were I think you just don’t understand how DC works. Bush never vetoed a GOP bill because (1) it is bad PR for the party to fight openly (though most of the far right don’t get that and (2) he worked it out before hand. Bush put strict limits on non-discretionary spending and Congress ALWAYS fell within in his numbers. They decided the mix of what went were, he set the limit.

    So not using a veto pen on a GOP Congress is a sign of strength. Seems to me most Mary Poppins Cons are really folks who just don’t know how things work.

  8. CatoRenasci says:

    AJ – Thank you for a very valuable exercise. I think we could all quibble a bit on your scorings here and there based on our personal hot button issues, and I’m not sure I’d score Bush quite as highly as you did, but you’re asking the right questions and overall getting the right (pun intended) conclusions.

    The only thing missing in the scoring is ‘electability’ and there is the rub – politics being about what’s possible, not what we’d like to see if this were the best of all conceivable worlds.

    I suppose in one sense I am a single issue voter – national security – if someone isn’t at least acceptable on national security and the war, I don’t care how good they are on everything else. Philosophers (e.g. the infamous Rawls beloved of liberals) call this ‘lexicographically ordered’ – a condition that must be satisfied before we even consider other conditions, but I think it is the only way to proceed when the US (and the civilized world) is at war.

    Once you’ve eliminated those who aren’t even minimally acceptable on national security, which for me means all the Democrats, Ron Paul, and Huckabee, then I look at the candidates to see who can win — since the alternative is a Democrat in the White House and Democrat control of Congress for the foreseeable future. I like that alternative a whole lot less than electing someone who is acceptable on national security, even if I disagree with them on some other issues.

    Only then, do I start asking which of those candidates will best reflect my other concerns, or, as I sometimes see it this time around, do the least amount of harm.

    I think you’re right that McCain is a net loss, I think a bit worse than you do, and that Rudy is probably the strongest positive among the most electable candidates. Though, honestly, I’m not so sure either of them are clearly ‘electable’ – McCain on age and problems with the base, Giuliani on possible problems with the base and some less than savory folks around him like Kerik – would there be a successful ‘mafia’ smear of him as was done with Ferraro and Cuomo? I think either of them could beat Hillary, though it’s not certain, and with Obama, I would worry.

    I like Fred Thompson pretty well, and I want to like Romney, but they do not inspire me as a long-time conservative and Republican, and I seriously wonder about their electability. Too much Dole-ishness in Fred and somehow Romney just doesn’t seem to catch on with anyone.

  9. hnav says:

    Really enjoyed this post, and have to agree…

    McCain is simply awful however.

    In response to Social Security question, McCain stated it was “FIXED” in the 80’s, thus he is the one to ‘fix’ it now.

    This is as Senatorial as it gets, for he simply doesn’t seem to understand that it was never fixed to begin with and remains flawed in conception.

    I see the high brow and the low brow at work, for so many seem eager to see Fred as the acceptable ‘conservative’, but his record matches McCain so much.

    A good Man, who has the ‘cool’ reputation, but a fine voice, an great accent do not make the right one for the job.

    Senator Thompson actually aided McCain’s foolish Campaign Finance Reform, and was a lobbyist for years.

    The image doesn’t match the reality, as the basis doesn’t support his stature.

    The white collar vs. the blue is tired in my book, and some just cannot get past ‘image’, which hurts the North Eastern Republican offering.

    Bill Gates vs. John Wayne?

    Both have their positive attributes…

    But Senators from the Beltway?

    They remain at the bottom of my list.

    Senators and former Lobbyists trying to tell us how ‘common’ they are, really seem to be pushing facade.

    Rather have the geek, the square, who has some record of getting the job done.

    Don’t like fashion, never have…
    Just my humble opinion.

    The ‘package’ is never an indication of the person.
    The record is a true revealing factor.

    LBJ had such sincere problems when he was given sole responsibility, as voting within the confines of a body is easier than truly leading.

    Ronald Reagan did not run for the Senate, he was trying to lead.

    There are two impressive CEO’s who have had such great success bringing sound conservative policy to liberal arenas, and I think it will be a tragedy if Romney and Rudy aren’t given an opportunity.

    Returning a life long Senator to Washington as the CEO, makes absolutely no sense to me, as it just endorses the failure.

    Neither Senator tried to address the problems in an aggressive manner, that they claim they will now as President.

    Fred woke up a little last night, had some good one liners, and I will be happy to support him in the General, but I don’t think he is up for this challenge.

  10. The Macker says:

    • McCain, Romney, Thompson and Giuliani would be strong on national security.

    • Romney and Giuliani are proven administrators.

    • McCain, Romney and Thompson are pro-life.

    • McCain has military experience.

    • Romney is a management geek.

    • McCain and Thompson are old.

    • In order of electability IMHO: McCain, Romney, Thompson, Giuliani.

  11. wiley says:

    I’m not a political junkie, but I know well enough how D.C. works. I understand your good point about the veto, but disagree that a veto or two would have hurt the party. Don’t know the accuracy of your comment on discretionary spending, but if true then it was much too high. There were too many spending bills with lards of pork and waste. One veto or real threat of one would have set a good precedent, and strengthened the base, and in the long run, the party.
    There can be no question that he should have veto’d McCain-Feingold.