State of the Union: 2010-2013 What a Debacle!

On January 20, 2010 Massachusetts elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate, indeed to the same seat once held by Democrat “Lion of the Senate” Ted Kennedy—this after exactly one year of failed ObamanomicsThe special election result amounted to a political earthquake, which shook the Democrat Party, gave the GOP some hope for prospects in November, and validated the populist grassroots nature of the Tea Party movement.  On the policy front, Scott Brown’s election from the bluest state in New England had national implications: it stopped the healthcare/health insurance reform effort in its tracks, at least temporarily.  Nobody but nobody likes the Senate or the House versions of the bill as currently proposed, as they appear loaded with everything but common sense.   


One week later, however, the president delivered a surprisingly tough State of the Union Address.  In his speech, he lectured the Republicans and bucked up the Democrats, but also rededicated himself and America supposedly to his entire Progressive agenda.  Having thrown a 12 to 40 percent budget increase into various government agencies already, he decided that it is time to call for a spending freeze…uh, next year.  The spending freeze of course won’t affect defense, Medicaid/Medicare or Social Security.  Moreover, he wants to beat that freeze as it were, by spending hundreds of billions of dollars more for a “Jobs Bill” this year, which really amounts to a second stimulus bill called by another name.  He also expressed his intent to end tax cuts put in place by President Bush, at the same time he promises punitive financial measures on banks, which aren’t lending very much now as it is. 


The logic of all this causes one to scratch his head or else accept the obvious, which is that the measures the president proposes lead to economic ruin; to future generations being saddled—nay, more accurately bridled by debt; and to socialist despair and equal poverty for everyone.  The president will either go down in history as the most economically devastating the nation has endured since Hoover, or else the people will respond to the political emergency and quite apart from handling any financial crisis, seal his fate in the election of 2012 as a one-term wonder. 


Meanwhile the outlines of political debate are taking shape on the Republican side.  Two important books will be released this spring, which present the major outlines of intellectual argument for what to do on the right.  One or the other approach for the country (or perhaps some hybrid of the two) will guide organized opposition to the administration for the next three years and potentially set the parameters for governance in the future.  If as expected the GOP rebounds in 2010 and 2012 and perhaps comes into majority, the importance of the intellectual debate this season becomes clear.  Every citizen and certainly every Tea Party activist needs to become conversant in the dialog.  Ideas truly do have consequences.  


The first book is called Courage and Consequence by former top White House Aide Karl Rove.  It is a memoir and, as might be expected, provides a vigorous defense of the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney years in office.  More importantly, the book serves not only to justify its policies but also to rearticulate and repackage operative neoconservative governing principles and philosophy, which guided that Administration.


The second book is Bringing America Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back by Tom Pauken, who served on President Reagan’s White House staff and who is currently the Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission appointed by Governor Perry.  As the title reveals, his is a virtual point/counterpoint to Rove.  Pauken rejects “Big Government Conservatism” and argues strenuously for return to limited government free market solutions, as well as to strict interpretation of the Constitution including its inherent structure of federalism and states rights.  He rearticulates and repackages the traditional or paleoconservative governing principles and philosophy


Rove takes a more elitist “subject matter expert” approach and never shies from implementing optimal solutions using the coercive power of the federal government; whereas, Pauken takes a discernibly grassroots approach, which in effect embraces and potentially co-opts the resurgent populist impulse characteristic of town hall meetings and tea party rallies since Obama tried to socialize America.  All around the country in 2010, the Republicans are fighting a critical internal battle for the soul and future of that political party.  The populist Jeffersonian type may seem to have an upper hand after the GOP’s electoral defeat in 2008, but neoconservatives are fighting an end-run to hold on to the levers of power and continue influence in the Republican Party until they can take advantage of the inevitable disenchantment with Obama.  It may be that this debate in 2010 will determine more than anything what Republicans look like in 2012, with critical implications for the future of the country if Obama gets tossed out on his ear. 


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary.  Email:

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