The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Can I Contend With Professor Reynolds for the ‘I Told You So’ Rodeo Buckle?

Posted on | October 3, 2010 | 3 Comments

That tall-walking Tennessee buckaroo rides hard:

“On April 15, 2009, as the first nationwide wave of Tea Party protests broke out, I wrote: ‘What’s most striking about the tea-party movement is that most of the organizers haven’t ever organized, or even participated, in a protest rally before. General disgust has drawn a lot of people off the sidelines and into the political arena, and they are already planning for political action after today. . . ‘ “

Please, by all means, read the whole thing, but after you do, amble on back over here and let me remind you where I was, and what I said, on April 15, 2009.

Tuscaloosa Tea Party:

“You’ve got to be positive and get organized,” McCain said. “If you’re going to sit around and whine, you’re never going to win. Bear Bryant would have told you that.”

Birmingham Tea Party:

But I was certainly no greenhorn rider in April 2009, because I had foreseen the themes of the Tea Party movement even before President Obama was elected. Historians of the movement know that the first major stirrings arose in opposition to President Bush’s Wall Street bailout. The House of Representatives voted against it on Sept. 29, 2008, at which time I described the opposition as “Libertarian Populism”:

The defeat of the Wall Street bailout deal in the House yesterday was an amazing convergence between libertarian ideals and a resurgent populist sentiment.
Brokered by leaders of both parties, the proposed $700 billion bailout was pitched in a primetime televised speech last week by President Bush as a consensus: “After much discussion, there is now widespread agreement on the principles such a plan would include.” This consensus came with the imprimatur of expertise: “The government’s top economic experts warn that without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic, and a distressing scenario would unfold.”

Two days later, I again underscored the depths of resentment against the president’s plan:

The president has told us that “the government’s top economic experts” believe the bailout is necessary to avert an economic collapse. The plan is supported by leaders of both parties in Congress, and endorsed by both John McCain and Barack Obama. One eminent pundit has denounced bailout opponents as “nihilists.”
Yet I cannot escape the conclusion that the bailout is wrong. Not just wrong as a matter of politics or policy, but wrong as a matter of morality. And I suspect that the same moral instinct fuels the fervor of many citizens who have been burning up the Capitol Hill switchboard with calls demanding that lawmakers vote against this bill.

And five days after that, on Oct. 7, I declared that John McCain’s advocacy of the bailout had doomed him to defeat:

On Sept. 24 . . . the McCain campaign suddenly freaked out. The Arizona senator announced that he was suspending his campaign activity, seeking a postponement of the Sept. 26 debate, and flying off to Washington to push for the Wall Street bailout bill. . . .
According to a CNN poll, 77 percent believed the bailout would benefit those who had caused the financial problems in the first place.
As with immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, McCain’s pro-bailout stance made him the most prominent advocate of an unpopular proposal. His attempt to push for quick passage of the measure was rebuffed. A Sept. 25 White House conference reportedly turned into a “contentious shouting match,” and the bailout bill was defeated Sept. 29 in the House, with most Republicans voting against it. . . .

In retrospect, most other analysts of the 2008 election have agreed that it was the Sept. 24 “freakout” which marked the point of no return, ensuring Republican defeat in 2008. However, I was the first conservative journalist to say as much, and was widely excoriated at the time for doing so.

Meanwhile, the GOP Establishment (including many of John McCain’s campaign staff) were beginning to scapegoat Sarah Palin. But I had been on the campaign trail and witnessed the throngs that turned out to see Palin. I will never forget a cold windy Pennsylvania day in late October:

The line outside the Heiges Field House at Shippensburg University was already growing long by noon, more than two hours before the doors opened for a Tuesday rally that wasn’t scheduled to start until 5 p.m. And two hours after the doors opened, the line still stretched down the sidewalk, around the Luhrs Performing Arts Center, all the way along Cumberland Drive past the baseball field and uphill to Grove Stadium. . . .
The Secret Service passed them through the metal detectors with brisk efficiency, but the line was so long that hundreds were left waiting outside in the cold when the rally began. Inside, thousands cheered wildly when Palin took the stage with her husband, Todd. She took her place at the lectern and tried to start her speech, but the screaming audience wouldn’t let her until they’d screamed for another full minute. . . .
Experts in Washington think themselves infinitely more important to the Republican Party than mere voters in Pennsylvania who stand in line to see the Alaska hockey mom who sent her oldest son to fight the war the experts once urged.
Our Republican experts don’t fight wars or send their sons to fight them. They don’t make hand-lettered signs and drive 50 miles to wait in the October wind for the chance to wave their signs inside an arena in Cumberland County, Pa. . . .
The Republican Party won’t notice the defection of a few experts in Washington, but the GOP can’t exist without all those people who love Sarah Palin in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida. Republicans would be wise to pay more attention to the people, and less to the experts.

Think back over the last two years. Think back to what the experts were telling us after Obama was elected (when David Brooks was admiring the creases in the presidential pants) and then let me remind you what I said about the president’s agenda in December 2008: It Won’t Work. And in February 2009, I said: It Still Won’t Work.

The neo-Keynesian deficit-funded stimulus-and-bailout agenda was doomed to failure, and yet some Republicans embraced it. At least two of those who embraced Obamanomics — Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter — are no longer Republicans. Another ex-Republican, Lisa Murkowski, lost in large part because she listened to the experts and voted for the Bush bailout in 2008.

Professor Reynolds was, as he says, right all along and he is also right to remind those who opposed the Tea Party movement, “I told you so.” Michelle Malkin can certainly say the same — hey, she was denouncing stimulus spending in May 2008 — and any conservative who opposed the Bush bailout is entitled to a share of credit for helping encourage what subsequently became the Tea Party movement.

However, as America’s Least Respected Conservative Blogger™ — whose sole claim to fame is having never been asked to speak at any gathering of the online Right — I felt the need to remind readers that I told you so, too.

God knows, no one else ever remembers any good I’ve done.


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