January 7, 2009
The choice of Gov. Tim Kaine to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee is certainly ample and fitting reward for his role in "turning Virginia blue" in last year's election. He and newly-sworn Senator Mark Warner are model "Obama-style" Democrats who appeal to centrist voters and business leaders, while subtly pursuing a leftward policy agenda. How do they do that? Well, a lot of strategic audacity, stylistic panache, and tactical cleverness, to begin with. The News Leader cartoonist Jim McCloskey appreciates the irony of this situation, but Chris Graham chuckles at the notion that Kaine is partisan. I took a photo of him speaking with Kaine during the governor's visit to Staunton in November.
Well, here's an archival gem I wrote in March 2006, early in Kaine's term: "Like his predecessor Mark Warner, Governor Kaine is maintaining the pretense of bipartisan cooperation while waging a brass-knuckled fight behind the scenes."
Speaking of partisanship, Barack Obama's choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA was utterly mystifying to me -- at first glance, anyway. Panetta has no real experience or education in intelligence-related matters, and his area of technical expertise is in budgetary affairs. See Washington Post. But then I got to thinking, maybe Obama intends to revamp the intelligence community, purging Bush appointees and putting liberals like Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame in top positions. I'm still angry at Panetta for his role in blocking Newt Gingrich's budgetary measures as part of the "Republican Revolution" in the fall of 1995. He was then White House chief of staff, using deception and fear-mongering tactics about Social Security, etc. on behalf of Bill Clinton. It was a truly despicable display of partisanship.
In response to certain right-wing Republicans such as Brent Bozell who blame "liberal" Republicans for the electoral defeat, shifting responsibility from the party's leaders, Lou Zickar at the Republican Leadership Council offers some refreshingly helpful thoughts:
[T]he GOP did not lose this election because it abandoned its small-government philosophy. Rather, the party lost the election because its small-government philosophy was incomplete. ...
If this election has proven anything, it is that it's no longer enough to simply say you're going to cut people's taxes and leave it at that. ...
The challenge now facing the GOP is that smart government is not in the party's rhetorical toolbox.
Indeed. Eventually, the Republicans are going to have to decide if their essential, defining value is limited government or social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. It's going to get harder and harder to keep those two in balance, unless the folks who favor the latter become more inclined to compromise. The promotion of an alternate version of reality, which Zickar alludes to, is related to what I was talking about on Dec. 9, with regard to the phenomenon of "cognitive dissonance." The truth that the Bush administration has crippled the Republican Party and have confused people on what conservative means is just too ugly for Bush loyalists to bear, so they flail away at "RINOs" and other ghosts.
When it comes to spinning an alternate version of reality, it would be hard to do better than Al Dahler, in his News Leader op-ed column on Monday. He argued that Bush has achieved great success in carrying out conservative policies, but he defines conservative in such a twisted, sarcastic way that it's not even worth arguing about. If Dahler meant to be facetious, it sure didn't come across that way. Calling Bush a "conservative" is like calling Martin Luther a "Catholic."