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How Bill Kristol ditched conservatism. Great Escape
The New Republic ^ | 5/28/2001 | Franklin Foer

Posted on 10/03/2002 7:41:50 PM PDT by logician2u

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Last night, a thread was started (which I can no longer locate) on the topic of, generally, how did we get to the current state of affairs where America has become the least respected, most feared nation in the world.

As I recall, some posters were quite upset that we are no longer the beacon of freedom and example for other countries to follow but rather thought of as a bully to the rest of the world. Others took exception to the word bully and accused the original poster of being a member of the Hate America First Crowd, etc. They insisted they were the genuine conservatives, since they were preserving America from the terrorists while the anti-war faction was inviting our destruction.

Without getting into the pros and cons of first strike, pre-emptive attack and advanced concepts such as MAD, I believe it is necessary that we FReepers understand which way the conservative movement has drifted since the end of the Cold War.

As a start, I am posting this article, originally published in that formerly left-wing but now respectable journal of opinion, The New Republic, over a year ago. It provides some background on the evolution of neo-conservativism from a pseudo-libertarian, don't-trust-the-government movement of former socialists and New Dealers to the "national greatness" conservatism as practiced openly by McCain and Kristol and, without a doubt, in the closet by any number of others, both in and out of the Bush Administration.

I would welcome any comments, as well as links to articles on Free Republic that supplement what Mr. Foer writes.

And please, for the sake of discussion and faster loading of the page for people using a dial-up account, refrain from inserting huge graphics that only clutter the screen and detract from the subject at hand. We are all perfectly aware of what happened on September 11, 2001.

1 posted on 10/03/2002 7:41:50 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Conservatism isn't neo-con, it's not libertarian, it's not "Well I'm a social liberal and a fiscal conservative", it's not compassionate conservatism, etc.

I think few "conservatives" know what the hell the word means.
2 posted on 10/03/2002 7:48:36 PM PDT by TheBigTown
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To: TheBigTown
I think few "conservatives" know what the hell the word means.

Can that be due to its relative meaninglessness since Reagan left office?

I use that as a proximate benchmark, because it was around then that the remaining conservatives in Washington pretty much threw in the towel. They had lost any sense of power with passage of the 1986 tax bill.

3 posted on 10/03/2002 7:55:36 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Kristol is a mess. Like many conservatives of my generation -- who got involved because "Conservativism", as then defined, was the most radical, anti-establishment political form then available -- he's never been able to transition to a role in a majority, ready-to-govern coalition. He seeks the fight, but has no stomache to actually build, or create, anything. So sad.

And what's wrong with "leave me alone" conservativism? It still holds an appeal for me; as it would the Founding Fathers.

4 posted on 10/03/2002 7:58:24 PM PDT by Reverend Bob
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To: logician2u
People are not all that fond of Bill Kristol around here.

We already noticed his support of McCain and a number of his other egregious gaffs.

I'm surprised to hear that the New Republic is "formerly left-wing."
5 posted on 10/03/2002 8:00:07 PM PDT by Cicero
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To: TheBigTown
I think the biggest confusion began actually with the election of Reagan. You had these moralists, who switched over from the democratic party on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. It had nothing to do with their views on labor unions, the minimum wage, corporate welfare, etc...

Gary Bauer is a good example. He is to the left of Bill Clinton economically, but a devout moralist christian, so he is called a conservative. Is he?

I think the words get confused. Conservatism means just as it says, to conserve, to preserve the moral order. But in a time when the order is chaos, the meaning of conservative is thrown into the abyss as well.

I would argue that Gingrich is more of a reactionary than a conservative. Reagan was trying to reinstill old values, so he was conservative, Gingrich was interested in new ideas, etc...

Is Free trade or protectionism conservative? Are the steel tarriff's Bush adopted conservative? Is the federal war on drugs conservative? It all depends on your definition.

6 posted on 10/03/2002 8:01:15 PM PDT by dogbyte12
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To: logician2u
that we FReepers understand which way the conservative movement has drifted since the end of the Cold War.

I am at a loss to understand how the conservative "movement" has drifted. The term neo-con is a misnomer but it will suffice for the subject of this article. The article itself is somewhat incoherent but the final message appears to be that the neo-cons have lost influence within the "movement" rather that steering its course.

7 posted on 10/03/2002 8:04:54 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: logician2u
I think it's hard to keep the meaning of the word because it's not an ideology, as Kirk says, and the meaning can evolve. It's somewhat elusive. But I don't think it should be splintered into factions, which is what has happened.

Few people understand that conservatism doesn't mean standing still, for example. It doesn't mean wearing a three-piece suit and slipping pocketwatch in your vest.

This is a massive topic, actually. Interestingly, and not ironically (another severly misused word), I had searched amazon.com a while ago for conservative books and this one popped up: "Bob Cobb's Dittohead Bartender's Guide."

I guess this is where we are, eh?
8 posted on 10/03/2002 8:06:21 PM PDT by TheBigTown
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To: Reverend Bob
And what's wrong with "leave me alone" conservativism? It still holds an appeal for me; as it would the Founding Fathers.

Well said, and I agree.

This was pretty much the standard form between 1964 and sometime in the '80s. (I'm still not sure where we went adrift, either with Reagan's second term or Bush the Elder's term. The end of the Cold War cinched it for many, as they learned that the "peace dividend" would be paid in social programs.)

9 posted on 10/03/2002 8:08:27 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: TheBigTown
I guess this is where we are, eh?

Not all of us. Just the Dittoheads.

10 posted on 10/03/2002 8:11:05 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: dogbyte12
Is Free trade or protectionism conservative? Are the steel tarriff's Bush adopted conservative? Is the federal war on drugs conservative? It all depends on your definition.

I think your examples are either conservative or populist positions depending on the stance taken.

11 posted on 10/03/2002 8:12:01 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: logician2u; Pokey78; A Citizen Reporter; Dog; Howlin
I am probably not going to be your favoroite reply, but I am quite grateful you posted this.

If you read through this article, you get a picture of Bill Kristol's behavior through the last few years, and it is obvious that as I have often pointed out, he chooses positions and personalities which are detrimental to the Republican party. He isn't a conservative at all.

He is a mole.

This article fails to document his long campaign to get Colin Powell to run as the Republican nominee in 2000. This is the same Colin Powell which Kristol now routinely trashes.

Kristol was originally backing Powell because he knew it would cause a split in the Republicans. Now he trashes Powell as Secretary of State, for the same reason.

So, thanks for posting this article, as it documents other incidences of the same type of behavior.

12 posted on 10/03/2002 8:13:40 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: logician2u
So where does the conservatism of, say, Burke fit in all this? The word has meaning before Goldwater.
13 posted on 10/03/2002 8:14:32 PM PDT by TheBigTown
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To: dogbyte12
Conservatism means just as it says, to conserve, to preserve the moral order.

By that definition, I should think Gary Bauer would fit right in. He is about the most moral politician we have, isn't he?

Or by moral order do you mean "social order?"

14 posted on 10/03/2002 8:15:29 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
I use that as a proximate benchmark, because it was around then that the remaining conservatives in Washington pretty much threw in the towel. They had lost any sense of power with passage of the 1986 tax bill.

There came a realization that the 'New Deal" programs were so entrenched that it was a losing battle. Reagan tried to starve them to death with tax reductions but also had to make large concessions for the same strategy of spending the Soviets into bankruptcy on defense buildups.

15 posted on 10/03/2002 8:16:13 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: logician2u
Bill Kristol (D)
16 posted on 10/03/2002 8:16:33 PM PDT by AdA$tra
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To: TheBigTown
So where does the conservatism of, say, Burke fit in all this?

Why cloud the issue with dead 18th-century males?

Wasn't Burke a royalist, after all?

17 posted on 10/03/2002 8:19:21 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Kristol is a bright guy...no one holds his views... but interesting none the less.

He and his fringe are really just media marketable conservatives...great for TV filler but not representative of any constituancy that votes.

When he went for the Nixonian Phase of McCain, I quit even listening to him 90% of the time.

18 posted on 10/03/2002 8:21:58 PM PDT by KC Burke
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19 posted on 10/03/2002 8:22:55 PM PDT by Anti-Bubba182
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To: Texasforever
There came a realization that the 'New Deal" programs were so entrenched that it was a losing battle.

That "realization," as you call it, is one of the basic precepts of neo-conservativism: Don't even think about undoing what has already been done, 'cause it won't fly.

Reform, yes. Repeal, no.

20 posted on 10/03/2002 8:24:15 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Why cloud the issue with dead 18th-century males?

If you don't examine that cloud, you can't see the sky itself. If you start your examination of conservatism with the side-track of the son of a interesting conservative, a son who is less than a leading light, I think you are in a dark cave.

21 posted on 10/03/2002 8:25:15 PM PDT by KC Burke
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To: logician2u
Reform, yes. Repeal, no.

How do your repeal social security?

22 posted on 10/03/2002 8:25:42 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: logician2u
Last night, a thread was started (which I can no longer locate) on the topic of, generally, how did we get to the current state of affairs where America has become the least respected, most feared nation in the world.

As I recall, some posters were quite upset that we are no longer the beacon of freedom and example for other countries to follow but rather thought of as a bully to the rest of the world. Others took exception to the word bully and accused the original poster of being a member of the Hate America First Crowd, etc. They insisted they were the genuine conservatives, since they were preserving America from the terrorists while the anti-war faction was inviting our destruction.

Without getting into the pros and cons of first strike, pre-emptive attack and advanced concepts such as MAD, I believe it is necessary that we FReepers understand which way the conservative movement has drifted since the end of the Cold War.

I have a vague memory of that thread too.

23 posted on 10/03/2002 8:31:43 PM PDT by UnBlinkingEye
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To: Miss Marple
He is a mole.

I would characterize him more as a weasel, but you're not far off.

Kristol was originally backing Powell because he knew it would cause a split in the Republicans. Now he trashes Powell as Secretary of State, for the same reason.

Occam's razor suggests a much simpler reason, but I hesitate to suggest it while we're making some headway on the main points.

Certainly Powell's reluctance to pursue an aggressive foreign policy like his predecessor must have some bearing on Kristol's current criticism of the SecState.

24 posted on 10/03/2002 8:34:01 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Powell's reluctance to push the Gulf War further was known well before he became SOS. His temperment, his empahasis on war as a last resort, his policy positions were all well-known.

Kristol KNEW what his positions were on things when he was backing him. I knew Powell's positions, for heaven's sake, and I am a housewife in Indiana, not a Beltway pundit!

Either Kristol knew and didn't care, or he is far more ignorant about the people in DC than I could imagine.

25 posted on 10/03/2002 8:38:28 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: UnBlinkingEye
I have a vague memory of that thread too.

Hah!

You should. But then so should Tex and he didn't mention it.

Thanks for refreshing my memory, UnBlinkingEye.

Care to offer any comments on "national greatness?"

That seems to be were we are, whether we like it or not.

26 posted on 10/03/2002 8:42:06 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: KC Burke
Sorry, KC.

Meant to close with </sarcasm>. Next time.

27 posted on 10/03/2002 8:43:42 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: Texasforever
How do your repeal social security?

Step 1: A Representative in Congress draws up a Bill to repeal Social Security.

Step 2: The House of Representatives passes said Bill.

Step 3: The Senate passes said Bill.

Step 4: The President of the United States signs the bill into law.

Next question?

28 posted on 10/03/2002 8:48:20 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
Neo-conservatism is clique politics. So is paleo-conservatism. So are New Democrats and neo-liberals and paleo-liberals. All journalistic and academic politics are the politics of cliques and coteries. It involves getting oneself published, getting the ear of politicians, shaping public opinion, and getting jobs for one's self and one's colleagues and cronies. This sort of politics is different from that of ordinary people who have little personally to gain from politics and make their choices on more general and impersonal grounds. It is inevitable that if you think yourself a prospective officeholder or an advisor to the powerful, you will take a different view of things than those who simply want to be left alone, or to express opinions.

There is an interesting discussion of neo-conservatism and paleo-conservatism at the weblog of Harvard Law School's Federalist Society (if you can get beyond the fact that it combines three great banes of society: Harvard, lawyers, and student politicians). Interesting quote there:

"I have been, and am still, a traditional conservative, focusing on three general freedoms- economic, social, and political ... Russel Kirk's The Conservative Mind, published [in 1953] was also important to me. Kirk gave the conservative viewpoint an intellectual foundation and respectability it had not attained in modern society ... [Kirk] declared that religion, family, and private property and its yield, as well as law and order, were the foundations of a conservative society ... 'My kind of Republican Party is committed to a free state, limited central power, a reduction in bureaucracy, and a balanced budget'" Goldwater, pp. 109-112. I think this summarizes mainstream conservatism as well as any other statement and I don't understand everyone's fascination with a war on the fringes.

That pretty much does sum up the common understanding of conservatism. The neos are too quick to increase the power of the federal government, when we ought to be trying to reduce it. I don't think we can or should repeal everything done since 1964 or 1932 or 1913 or 1860 or 1787. Practicality and responsibility dictate that some federal agencies will remain. Anarchy is not a conservative goal, and conservatives will have to make peace with some forms of federal regulation and oversight. But that doesn't mean being enthusiastic over increaching the scope and reach of government power.

The article is fascinating, but I don't trust the New Republic very much about conservatives. What's significant is that all this has been obscured by the shift of debate to foreign and military affairs. When the dust clears, we may well find Kristol's neo-conservatism enthrowned as the new conservative orthodoxy, or we may find a bitter battle over domestic policy and the size and role of the state.

Like the gingham dog and the calico cat, neos and paleos, lovers of TR and FDR on one side and haters of Lincoln and Hamilton on the other may end up devouring each other, leaving the way open for political leaders who directly address the voter, rather than courtiers who seek to become power brokers. Goldwater and Reagan, do seem to be a good guide. Though they were most critical of the general trend of government intervention since FDR, I don't think they opposed environmental protection or the regulation of banks and financial markets.

29 posted on 10/03/2002 8:51:25 PM PDT by x
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To: logician2u
Care to offer any comments on "national greatness?"

I think we are a great nation and a good people, but I am in total opposition to U.S. hegemony. I support the ideals embodied in George Washington's Farewell Address.

We should be an example for the world, not a policeman.

Deterence worked.

30 posted on 10/03/2002 8:51:41 PM PDT by UnBlinkingEye
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To: Miss Marple
Either Kristol knew and didn't care, or he is far more ignorant about the people in DC than I could imagine.

There's always the possibility that Kristol knew and cared more about some power trip he was taking than the future of the Republic.

If so, he's not the only one.

31 posted on 10/03/2002 8:52:03 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: logician2u
I know the process. I am asking for a realistic plan to do it that could be adopted by any congress since FDR.
32 posted on 10/03/2002 8:57:10 PM PDT by Texasforever
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To: Miss Marple
I respect Billy Boy about as much as I respect Jim Jeffords.
33 posted on 10/03/2002 8:59:22 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Miss Marple
Kristol was originally backing Powell because he knew it would cause a split in the Republicans. Now he trashes Powell as Secretary of State, for the same reason.

He was campaign manager for John McCain's presidential bid for the same reason. I consider him a Democrat. fsf

34 posted on 10/03/2002 8:59:31 PM PDT by Free State Four
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To: logician2u
Kristol's main flaw, although not exactly unique is his own inflated view of himself. He frequently eschews pragmatism with his fellow conservatives..(broadly speaking). No wonder he loved McCain..lol...

I know Marty sold TNR...right?....but I'm not sure it's now become "conservative" yet. Are the new owners both neo-cons as well? They appear to fit the Jewish neocon label....name-wise, which btw, sort of bugs me. I would not lump all Jewish conservatives into the neocon soup because of support for Israel. Many hard right culture warriors like myself feel the same way....and frankly G-d has nothing to do with it from my perspective.

There was a day 20 odd years ago when TNR boasted Fred Barnes, Krauthammer (I know...another Neo), and PJ O'Rourke.

Interesting article nonetheless...
35 posted on 10/03/2002 9:01:12 PM PDT by wardaddy
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To: logician2u
Uh, don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen. While getting rid of social security sounds nice to some people, ain't never gonna happen, and people that spend all day wishing it were so should find something better to do.

Kristol is an infinite bore. Once I spent a week listening to him give a one hour speech. He went on and on and on and on and lost the entire crowd of about 500 people. And he did not care and made no effort to connect with the group. He could have been reciting Clinton's 1988 DNC speech, because no one in the entire crowd was listening after about 10 minutes. The feedback from the event was amazing, because almost everyone said that to make the event better they should GET A BETTER SPEAKER.
36 posted on 10/03/2002 9:01:25 PM PDT by pittsburgh gop guy
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To: logician2u
Conservative, Neo-con, I don't care what label you pin on Kristol. I think he's a moron who's overstayed his fifteen minutes of fame. Fox has no business giving him a bully pulpit to vent his spleen. He's no better than Dick Morris (and yes, Fox gives him too damn much time on the air, too).
37 posted on 10/03/2002 9:03:19 PM PDT by mhking
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To: pittsburgh gop guy
Kristol is an infinite bore. Once I spent a week listening to him give a one hour speech. He went on and on and on and on and lost the entire crowd of about 500 people.

You and I had the same experience, only at different venues I'm certain. (He has to keep moving from one group to another because he never gets invited back.)

The feedback from the event was amazing, because almost everyone said that to make the event better they should GET A BETTER SPEAKER.

The sponsors of the event I attended were ashamed to even ask.

38 posted on 10/03/2002 9:10:05 PM PDT by logician2u
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To: UnBlinkingEye
Deterence worked.

logician reminded us that we didn't need to post graphics, but you can't possibly think that this statement could go unchallenged. Please clarify in what way it worked against Al-Qaeda.

39 posted on 10/03/2002 9:19:13 PM PDT by m1911
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To: TheBigTown
Well what does it mean( of course beyond the websters dictionary sense)?
40 posted on 10/03/2002 9:27:03 PM PDT by weikel
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To: m1911
Deterence works on a nation to nation basis. If we need to stop criminals police work should suffice. Terrorists can be destroyed by removing their causes and international support for their destruction.
41 posted on 10/03/2002 9:28:22 PM PDT by UnBlinkingEye
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To: Miss Marple
As you describe it, sounds like a David Gergan redux, but a bit more in the cold.
42 posted on 10/03/2002 9:29:24 PM PDT by GopherIt
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To: Miss Marple
"If you read through this article, you get a picture of Bill Kristol's behavior through the last few years, and it is obvious that as I have often pointed out, he chooses positions and personalities which are detrimental to the Republican party. He isn't a conservative at all.

"He is a mole."

Mole? Or opportunist?

It strikes me that, at every turn, Kristol has adapted or created his "ideas" and chosen his standard-bearer so as to attract the most attention for himself and his "ideas".

In this sense, Kristol isn't a mole. He's a parasite.

Buchanan has the nasty habit of calling everybody who doesn't agree with him a "neocon". This creates the misconception that neocons are legion. In turn, Kristol dubs all those at odds with him as "paleocons". Thus, the forces of the paleos are enormously magnified.

So we have two fringes -- one actually Populist, the other some kind of "Manifest Destiny", both irrelevant -- whose inner linings define the outer limits of conservatism.

43 posted on 10/03/2002 9:29:31 PM PDT by okie01
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To: logician2u
How about the Supreme Court Declares it and all other entitlements unconstitutional. Sigh neither will actually happen till everything really goes to h***.
44 posted on 10/03/2002 9:30:03 PM PDT by weikel
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To: logician2u
Kristol is a red-diaper baby with a twist (his parents abandoned the left before he was in diapers!). Brooks --- much as I like the guy (great writer with a wicked and supersmart wit) --- is the son of two well respected and very liberal college professors. Neither guy is a conservative. Both have been too long marinated in an academic stew, and Strauss alone does not a conservative make. Brooks can barely find the gumption to challenge bleeding heart Mark Shields most of the time during their Friday segment on the PBS Newshour. And Kristol is, well, Kristol. He doesn't wear well --- much too whiny.

As for a Bull Moose party, it would be a disaster for the Republican Party, which is why it appeals to Benedict Arnold "War Hero" McCain. Two years out from the presidential election, it looks like Bush has the political skills to ward off any such eventuality, however.

45 posted on 10/03/2002 9:31:21 PM PDT by beckett
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To: wardaddy
A supporter of McCain cannot call himself conservative I believe McCain to be a closet communist who was brainwashed by the Vietnamese.
46 posted on 10/03/2002 9:32:40 PM PDT by weikel
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To: logician2u
I agree, Kristol wouldn't recognize a Ronald Reagan republican if he bumped into one. Kristol is a wimp and I do not support his idea of republicanism. If being a republican means acting like Kristol, I'll pass.
47 posted on 10/03/2002 9:34:17 PM PDT by John Lenin
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To: pittsburgh gop guy
Its not going to happen until things start getting really really bad.
48 posted on 10/03/2002 9:34:28 PM PDT by weikel
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To: weikel
LOL....I just hit you with a kathy ireland pick.....

I too wonder about McCain...down here we'd call him "peculiar"
49 posted on 10/03/2002 9:34:31 PM PDT by wardaddy
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To: UnBlinkingEye
Post 30: We should be an example for the world, not a policeman.

Post 41: If we need to stop criminals police work should suffice.

50 posted on 10/03/2002 9:35:19 PM PDT by m1911
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