Monday, October 8, 2007
Personal Asides: Why the 2008 Decision is so Tough for Conservatives Maestro Greenspans False Notes Detailed by Bob Novak and Added to by Ferguson
If Giuliani Gets the Nomination What Then?
A friend of this website complains that my viewpoint on Rudy Giuliani changes like a kaleidoscope. To which I say of course! because conditions change. First he says he will name strict constructionists to the courts. Then he adds that one can be a pro-abort and a strict constructionist. Third he says he is for spending restraint but admits that as mayor of New York he brought pressure to bear which ended the possibility of line-item veto which today he endorses.
But he is continuing to hold first place in the GOP run for the presidency and in my estimation in a 2008 which shall rival 1932 or 1936 for Republicans is the only one who commands a sliver of a chance of getting elected.
Initially I was against his candidacy. Then he rose in the polls to the likelihood of being the nominee and the most likely to win over Hillary Clinton, so I mused long and hard. Then Romney seemed to have the promise of overtaking him. Then Romney fell back and Fred Thompson, an unknown quantity, was heralded. I gave Thompson a look see. He impresses me as Bob Dole with a southern twang. His Chicago appearance was flat, boring and trite.
Now as all three go down the stretch, Giuliani is still ahead. Just when I was becoming reconciled to taking my Giuliani bitter medicine, Jim Thompson announced that not only is Giuliani his man but he represents the kind of Republican party Thompson cherishes. Jim Thompson whom I regard with enough dyspeptic illness as to regurgitate became what I was sure was the deciding factor. Ergo: I am not for Giulianibut if he wins the nomination, what then? .
Since I started actively following Republican politics (in 1940 when the choices were Robert A. Taft, Arthur Vandenberg and Wendell L. Willkie) this has been the oddest concoction of choices the Republicans have ever brought forth. No candidate even comes close to genuineness on the issues that social conservatives believe not Romney with his twists and turns not McCain who, despite his heroism, exhibits a nutty Establishment-pandering fatal ignorance: such as when he said the other day that he would draft Alan Greenspan to review the economy (see Bob Novaks assessment of Greenspan below) not Thompson in the major categories. And then we get to Rudy. Certainly Giulianis recklessness in personal life underscores the great possibility of fatal recklessness in affairs of state. Increasingly it seems like Giuliani will continue in first place.
Once again: suppose the nominee is Rudy. Where do I go then?
The Return to Pascals Wager.
Dr. James Dobson and other evangelical leaders say they will support a third party candidate. Is that wise? Of course not; one does not abrogate the possibility of the human condition affecting change by adopting the approach of hitting ones head with a hammer the my-way-or-the-highway approach aka Ill punish the party for not following by direction by helping the country go over a cliff.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that if its Giuliani the prudent conservative should approach it as the great French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62) did belief in God. Pascal, a contemporary of Descartes, designed a mathematically perfect rationale for skeptics. The prudent agnostic would apply it in his last hours before death. Death will come shortly: shall the agnostic not utter a prayer of contrition because he does not know if God exists to hear the prayer? If his answer is no, it is anti-intellectual; if it is yes, it is cowardice. The prudent agnostic who is in full command of his faculties would reason thusly:
(A) if I say a prayer of contrition, die and find that God does not exist, I shall have been wrongbut what have I lost? NOTHING.
(B). If I do not say a prayer of contrition, die and find that God does exist and I was wrong, what have I gained? NOTHING.
(C) If I say a prayer of contrition, die and find that God does exist, I shall conceivably save my souland what have I gained? EVERYTHING. .
Thus I shall choose C and say the act of contrition as well as the act of faith, cross my fingers and hope for the best.
A variant of Pascals Wager should be applied if Rudy is nominated, I believe.
Remember that there is no chance that the Democratic party will nominate one who shares my views on social, economic or international issues whatever. There is the probability that an independent candidacy will reflect my views, however.
So the first application of Pascals Wager is this:
(A), I do not vote at all. Thus everyone else makes the decision without me. An act of cowardice. I have gained NOTHING.
(B). I vote for a third party candidate who satisfies my views. No third party candidate has ever won the presidency in the 200 plus years in which we have had elections. So I lose. More than that, my failure to vote for the Republican candidate has helped the Democratic candidate whom I despise. I have gained NOTHING.
Suppose I choose
(C). I vote for Giuliani on the basis that there is a chance just a chance that he would be better on my issues than the Democratic opposition and besides might very well get elected (basis the polls). He is elected and is badrotten and as bad as the Democratic choice would be. I have gained NOTHING.
Now in this variant of Pascals Wager there is a final choice. Suppose I choose
(D). I vote for Giuliani with crossed fingers understanding he may be bad but there is a chance he may be better than the Democratic nominee on my issues and he is good. I shall have won EVERYTHING.
Thus the prudent person should apply the one out of four Pascals Wager in just that context, in my view. The mathematical answer and Pascals own answer to this problem is: Why not vote for Rudy as the nominee and take the chance? Any other choice would be folly.
Dr. Dobson says he cannot be true to himself if he does not vote for one who supports his social conservative positions. I cannot support this by the very transitory nature of politics. There is the certainty that the independent will loseso Dobsons vote will contribute to a Democratic victory from which he will gain NOTHING. Yet as there is the chance that when Giuliani says he will name people to the court similar to or identical to Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts, he will do it the prudent Pascal man should, I believe, take the Wager, pull the lever for Giuliani, put the chips on him and play the game since this is the only chance one has to win.. If Rudy wins and turns out to be bad, the social conservative will have the consolation of taking the only realistic choice available to him.
Obviously if someone other than Giuliani is nominated by the GOP, given all the other candidates positions on social issues, I shall not have to undergo this Pascals Wager business. Just if Giuliani is the nominee.
To my friend: it is still an ever-shifting kaleidoscope in my thinking but I think I have resolved what to do if Rudy becomes the nomineeas he very well might.
Let us open a plebiscite on this. Your views on the Pascal Wager theory, please. In shortwill you be willing to take a chance slight though it may be or resolve to punish yourself and the nation by voting for one who cannot possibly win?
Greenspan the Trimmer.
Im not sure you caught Bob Novaks Sun-Times column on Alan Greenspan, but you very well may not have, lost as it was in the welter of the tabloids new-new marketing approach: one-syllable words flinging invectivetailored to what it fancies as its audience a gum-chewing, girl-ogling, soft-porn, dilettante cum-blue-collar lefty crowd with Neanderthal knuckle-dragging morals (a demographic that doesnt exist which is why the paper is fading quickly) but I digress: Novak was fascinating. In addition there is another invaluable articleby Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard. Both were reviews of Greenspans autobiography, The Age of Turbulence.
I did an article on Greenspan and the Fed last week and surmised, after talking with a longtime former Greenspan employee, that his anti-Bush flavor is due to his Objectivist social views ala Ayn Rand, an atheist, arch-opponent of the Judeo-Christian ethic, who saw inner strength coming from the elevation of selfishness as a virtue. Greenspan was not just a groupie for Ayn Rand; he was high in her council of disciples and has never, to my view, renounced a single tenet of her largely Nietzsche-based philosophy. Ferguson cites the fact that Rands philosophy of Objectivism is creepy placing the self at the center of the moral universea theory enthusiastically embraced, as it still is, by tens of thousands of pimply teenage boys in dreamy moments between fits of insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation.
As her cultish fame spread, Rand wanted to keep tabs on her most intimate acolytes. Of these Greenspan was the most promising and by all appearances the most normal. Which worried her.
He had, for example, a life; most of the members of the Collectivethe name her dozen closest followers attached to themselvesdid not, devoting themselves to her welfare exclusively. Greenspan was making good money, soon to be great money, as a savvy economics consultant. He lunched with bond traders, corporate leaders, even titans of industry, real-life version of the planet-girding capitalists Rand fantasized about and invented for her books.
Ferguson points out that in those heady Rand-ian days, Greenspan could argue for the gold standard, absolute deregulation of the economy, abolition of the Federal Reserve, could describe her book Atlas Shruggedwhich gives off the whiff of the need for totalitarianismin a famous and well-quoted letter to The New York Times this way:
`Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persisting avoid either purpose or reason, perish as they should.
Parasites perish as they should. Sounds Hitlerian, does it not? Yet when this theoretician of untrammeled capitalism run amok became capitalisms highest regulatorthe role Rand disdained as the parasites protector and chief impediment to the New ManGreenspan became suffused with praise ands celebrity from a world Rand hated. But, as I added in my article earlier, the atheistic madness that Rand typified has centered in Greenspans anti-humanitarian social views which he has taken out on all conservative presidents since Ford in his book.
Novak who won prizes for his coverage of economic issues on House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees as a Wall Street Journal Capitol Hill and who knows whereof he speaks on the Fed and the economy, penned a devastating character review of Greenspan as well as a critique of his book. The journalist says that instead of examining his frequently suspect management of monetary affairs during 18 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the political and financial worlds two weeks ago focused on Greenspans self-portrait as a `conservative libertarian who deplores Republican leaders and their policies. That dovetails with my view that Greenspan, far from being a conservative, is and was nothing more than a canny political operator married to another of his ilk, NBC-TV foreign affairs commentator Andrea Mitchell.
Novak continues: Greenspan knows that the surest route to praise in Washington is for a purported man of the right to be seen as embracing the left. He points out that Greenspan is more negative about his benefactors than the media have suggested, including Ronald Reagan. Only Gerald Ford, the hapless, short-term appointed president, gets passing grades. To Novak, Greenspans false notes are these:
1. Instead of a detached policy-maker, Greenspan comes over as engaged in political games. I have had enough contact with Greenspan to know the central banker in private is a political junkie but I had no idea how deeply he was involved with the one Democratic president who appointed him, Bill Clinton. When Greenspan took a seat in the presidents box for Clintons 1993 deficit reduction speech to Congress, federal reserve colleagues viewed taking that seat as undermining the central banks cherished independence.
2. Greenspans memoir does not mention Clintons quest for him to cut interest rates in compensation for tax increases but the Fed chairman was quite concerned at the time about being seen as the presidents pawn.
3. Greenspan buys into the discredited depiction of Ronald Reagan (who first named Greenspan to the Fed) as an amiable dunce and does not conceal contempt for both Bushes (each of whom nominated him).
4. Even more surprising is his adoration of Clinton. While scathing in attacking increased spending by George W. Bush, he ignores massive non-defense spending hikes under Clinton and embraces the Democrats tax increase as our best chance in 40 years to get stable long-term growth.
5. Greenspans book ignores Reagans tax-cutting supply-side movement as it if never happened. Seeing no inherent benefits from a lower tax burden, he accepts the Democratic deficit-reduction formula that a dollar of higher taxes is equivalent to a dollar of reduced spending.
6. He depicts hs favorite colleague in the younger Bushs administration as the dysfunctional Treasury Secretary Paul ONeill who opposed tax-cut strategy while ruining morale in his department.
7. The tip-off to Greenspans mindset is his reference to Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad as a `fiscal conservative. Avowed deficit hawk Conrads advocacy of high taxes and high spending gave him a 16% rating last year from the National Taxpayers Union.
8. Though Greenspans memoir makes him a virtual Clinton administration member, he describes himself as a reluctant public servant---which runs counter to my firsthand observations. He writes that he turned down a job in the Nixon administration but in fact was rejected by the new presidents staff because of his 1968 campaign performance. (Temporarily exiled to political Siberia, a distraught Greenspan was reduced to scheduling breakfast with me on his visits from New York).
9. His book shows him reluctantly accepting Reagans appointment as Fed chairman in 1987 but in fact he actively promoted himself for the job. (He approached me at a Washington reception that year to say he had heard I opposed his appointment and asked me why).
10. Novak concludes: [The book] tells enough to leave intriguing questions for a future biographer. Why did three Republican presidents name a Federal Reserve chairman fundamentally opposed to the GOPs economic doctrine? Did Greenspan deceive them?
Did Greenspan deceive them? Aw, the old Objectivistworshiper of the Self which in service to which anything goes--wouldnt have done that, would he? As for where the Objectivism and love of fascistic totalitarianism ala Rand rears its head he has far more admiring things to say about Chinas dictator Zhu Rongji than about George W. Bush, senior Bush or Ronald Reagan.