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Wednesday, August 1, 2007
posted by My Klob | 7:34 AM | permalink

It's Competence, Stupid!
Managerial excellence, not ideological purity, is what the GOP primary is all about.

By Jim Geraghty

New York Times columnist David Brooks was wowed by Mitt Romney Friday, offering a rave review of the candidate "talking about his success in business and in running the Olympics. He was talking about how you assemble a team of people with complimentary skills. How you use data and analysis to replace opinion. How you set benchmarks and how often you should perform self-evaluation… It opened up a vista of how government might operate."

This brought an unimpressed reaction from a closeted conservative editor at a Washington publication, who thought he heard an echo of another former governor of Massachusetts:
Now, come on. Doesn't that sound, more than anything, like a Republican version of Mike Dukakis? "I can make government work. It's not about ideology. It's about competence." Now, granted, competence might be a saleable message right about now. But it's also one that is easy to parody, difficult to sustain in the face of hole-poking criticism, and, as far as I can remember, has never been very successful among a Republican electorate. We simply assume our candidates are more or less competent, I think, and move quickly on to other things. Romney is going to have a tough sell if he relies on competence as his major selling point. 'Managerial excellence' is not going to persuade me, and I am, right now, completely open to persuasion, a position I have not been in at this point in a presidential election cycle since I have been voting.
Allow me to play devil's advocate and offer the argument that, at this moment, for conservatives seeking to choose their nominee in 2008, it really is competence, not ideology.

[Pause to dodge tomatoes hurled by readers who interpret this as a de facto defense of Michael Dukakis.]

For starters, let me offer the even more controversial argument that, ideologically, there's not a huge difference among the four leading Republican candidates:

[Pause as all four campaigns indignantly shout "WHAT? HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?!?", and hurl another barrage of tomatoes.]

As it has been well-documented, all of them have their issues where they disagree with conservative orthodoxy:

Giuliani: As mayor, liberal on guns, abortion, and gay rights; insists he would be a federalist on these issues as president.

Romney: Running in 1994 and 2002, sounded as un-conservative as necessary to win in the state of Massachusetts. Wife donated to Planned Parenthood.

Thompson: A federalist on tort reform; supported McCain-Feingold; did the 17 hours of lobbying work for the family-planning group 16 years back.

McCain: Campaign finance; Gang of 14 deal on judges; immigration-reform deal.

In the end, if you're a down-the-line conservative, it's pick your poison: Figure out on which issues you're least upset by dissent from the conservative orthodoxy, and vote for the guy who toes the line on your top issues. Or vote for some second-tier candidate whose chances of winning are slim to none (and Slim just left town, as Dan Rather would say).

But before conservatives start denouncing the field as a herd of RINOs, let's observe that on most of the other issues — particularly economic and foreign policy, and some legal-social ones — there's a conservative consensus.

Does anyone think that a President Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, or McCain would not pick Supreme Court justices in the mold of John Roberts or Samuel Alito? Does anyone think they would try to fight their own base on public financing of abortions? Does anyone think they would raise taxes, or try to enact Hillary-style socialized medicine, or agree to meet with the world's rogue state dictators in their first year in office? (And does anyone doubt that any of the Democratic candidates would do the opposite?)

At the end of the day, on a conservatism scale of one to ten — one being Lincoln Chafee and ten being Rush Limbaugh — all of these guys score about a seven or an eight. None of them are the second coming of Reagan, but all of them would be fairly conservative, and perhaps would be a breath of fresh air.

In fact, the contrast with our current president is illuminating. For as much as President Bush's policy differences with his base (especially on immigration and spending) have hurt him, I would suspect what is truly driving conservatives batty is what is now incontrovertible evidence that Bush is a poor manager.

A couple of vividly illustrative examples:

Rumsfeld's Departure:
One week before the election, Bush repeated to wire-service reporters an oft-declared pledge that he intended to keep Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon until he leaves office in 2009. The day after the election, Bush announced Rumsfeld's departure and named Gates his successor. Entirely separate from the merits of whether Rumsfeld should stay or go, can anyone argue that it was wise to explicitly and repeatedly promise that he would stay, only to drop him right after the election? If Rumsfeld was already on his way out (as the readiness of Gates suggested), announce it before the election so that GOP candidates didn't have to defend an unpopular Pentagon chief and could talk up Gates. The timing resulted in the worst of all worlds — GOP candidates having to defend Rumsfeld, the widespread perception that Bush lied, and the perception that the Democratic victory had instantly forced changes.

Alberto Gonzales:
Having seen contradictory, confused, or incoherent answers to inquiries from the beginning of the U.S. attorney mess, Republicans don't want to defend Gonzales, National Review wants him to resign, and conservative bloggers want the " Fredo" of the Bush White House to be taken out fishing. But he stays, despite one appalling appearance before Congressional panels after another, ensuring a continuing controversy. Fair or not, Bush creates the perception that he values personal friendship and loyalty over competence and good judgment. And on that note…

Harriet Miers:
'Nuff said.

The timing and manner of the immigration fight:
By early this year, Bush's approval rating had dropped below 40 percent, down to his base of solid conservatives. And then he decided to advocate, loudly and repeatedly, for legislation passionately despised by that base. Whether or not Bush's view was right, it was the wrong fight at the wrong time. It's not unprecedented for a president to oppose his base — Clinton did so on welfare reform and NAFTA — but fighting for those idiosyncratic priorities has to be done carefully and respectfully. Throughout the immigration debate, Bush and his allies demonstrated the opposite — after its first defeat, Bush brushed off the vote and dismissed the opposition arguments, declaring, "I'll see you at the bill signing." His secretary of homeland security contended that the opposition wanted the death penalty for illegal immigrants, and Senate ally Lindsey Graham lamented to the New York Times about the "racism" in the debate — all of which alienated and infuriated conservatives at a time when the White House needed all the friends it could get.

Finally surging in Iraq:
Reports that the surge has triggered tangible benefits in Iraq is great. But there's a nagging question in the minds of those of us who want to see success in Iraq — why did the surge concept only get tried at the beginning of 2007? By the end of 2003 it was clear that Iraq would have a persistent, violent insurgency. Where were these additional troops and more aggressive tactics in 2004, 2005 and 2006? In retrospect, didn't the administration waste three years' worth of American patience with policies and military leaders who essentially treaded water? Or could these tactics and reinforcements and General Petraeus's leadership have only worked in this moment? If we're seeing positive results with 155,000 troops that we didn't see with 120,000 troops, didn't the "send more troops" crowd deserve more attention from the White House in retrospect?

Some of these pratfalls have ideological elements, but all of them were at least exacerbated by bad management — bad communications, bad judgment, bad analysis, bad self-evaluation. A future Republican president who is marginally less conservative, but a better manager, may actually achieve a great deal more for the Right than President Bush has.

Jim Geraghty blogs at

Jim Geraghty is a regular contributor to National Review Online and National Review . In addition to writing columns for National Review, Geraghty also has a weblog on the site named TKS and is a former reporter for States News Service.

During the 2004 US Presidential election, Geraghty was often critical of Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry. At the time his weblog used the name "The Kerry Spot". Geraghty reported on the Killian documents and Rathergate stories on a daily basis on behalf of National Review and was critical of CBS and Dan Rather. Geraghty was one of the self described Pajamahadeen.

Starting in March 2005, Geraghty has been posting to TKS from Turkey, where he is living as an expatriate.

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Since Mitt Romney's not going to, I feel that it's time for me to take a hard right cross at Rudy Guiliani. He can take it. Especially from a nobody like me. Wait a minute...I have some friends and family that vote and I can speak my mind here so I'm sure it won't hurt him.

I'm a Conservative in the truest sense. I have a growing family. I love my wife. I have an 8 to 5 job and soon will be taking on a second full time job for a while to build our reserve and supplement for the loss of my wife's income so that she (who had an equal part in this decision) could stay home and take on the toughest job, which is to mold future upstanding citizens and people. Better hopefully than we ever could be.

I go to Church every Sunday and believe very much in an Almighty being that loves and cares for me and my welfare and the welfare of my family and for you and your loved ones. I believe in freedom and strength in morality and I believe that only in this country can we achieve these things.

With all of this said Rudy Guiliani is the WORST that we as conservatives can choose to represent us for President of the United States because in 2008 two things in the Republican Party are at odds with each other...

Electability vs. Ideology (in our case Conservatism).

I'm afraid that with the way the polls are going, Ideology is going to lose unless we do more.

Republicans, mainly the mainstream GOP media elites (I touched on their bias before) are only talking about Electability barely skimming over Ideology. They provide cover for Guiliani and Thompson for that matter regarding suspect things about their IDEOLOGY and their willingness to say "yeah and what about it" and "no that's not me" only to find out it was!

These people (GOP elites) are truly scared of "losing". Something they accused Democrats of being when the Republican Party had their unsuccessful stint in Congress. More and more people in the Republican Party are willing to move farther left (which we all agree is the wrong direction) because they want to "win". Who truly wins with a Rudy Guiliani as President? The left and liberals do! Why? Because according to Rudy Guiliani we're the unreasonable ones because we believe in life. We're the unreasonable ones because we believe that homosexuality is essentially wrong. We're the unreasonable ones because we believe in fidelity and strong families. We are the unreasonable ones because we socially are "out of touch" and now we need to be more "inclusive". How many liberals believe what you or I believe? What does the left capitulate to with their ideology (which we know is wrong on so many levels) with Hillary or Obabma as their candidate? NOTHING!!! The left is still the left.

Essentially with Rudy Guiliani we are watering down Social Conservatism. I know that Guiliani is strong militarily but what good does that do for me and my children if they live in a socially liberal society? Where things I don't believe in and teach them are wrong are seen by others as acceptable? This is a fight that I as a parent don't want!

I don't even believe that Guiliani will be as effective militarily as any of the other candidates. He may even be less effective. I believe that against Romney he is. He's too emotional when it comes to making pragmatic decisions. It's not hard to lead when the colors are clearly black and white but I know what he's like when it's gray. He's using a lot of Romney's strategies now not because this was their plan but because he knows what's winning on the ground. He's just now starting to campaign like he should because he has to look at what the stronger organizational and competent candidate is doing all the while trying to steer clear of his social liberalism.

I don't care if middle of the road people vote for my candidate if they can't see logically ahead of them and they themseklves are willing to compromise what they believe or don't believe in. People in the middle are not only indecisive, they pick and choose what they want for themselves much of the time. It's not about right or wrong for them, it's what fits. For them Rudy Guiliani is what fits! I'm not going to vote for someone just because of 9/11 or because he was competent on TV. I will vote for the true conservative who is going to fight for Conservatism in every form--family and values, economy, and military. Conservatism wins everytime it's tried right? Then why are we wasting time with Rudy Guiliani or Fred Thompson?

Conservative Gladiator

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 1, 2007 at 9:16 AM  

I do agree with much of the above comment.

Rudy is not a true conservative, and yes, he is simply riding the waves of popularity and publicity that he recieved from being in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies in our history.

Rudy is good at at least three things, however:

1) He knows how to copy a working strategy. His words are sounding more and more like Mitt's every day.

2) He knows how to highlight and take credit for the good he's been fortunate to be present for and to minimize and hide the bad. And yes, I say "the good he's been fortunate to be present for"... He was present when the abortion rate went down and adoption rate went up in New York City. He was also present when the violent crime rate went way down in New York City. Good Job Rudy! Or is it? Actually, the abortion and adoption rates as well as the violent crime rates were VERY CLOSELY tied to national trends, especially when compared to other major cities.

Rudy's successes have more to do with demographics and luck than with his managerial or executive genious.

Was he a bad mayor? Probably not. Unpopular, but there definately could have been worse mayors for New York City. But he is better at taking credit and sweeping things under the rug than he is at actually producing.

and #3) He has a nice smile.

Personally, I like Rudy. I like to hear him talk. I like to see him take jabs at people even more liberal than himself. But I think there's much more on the surface than there is substance.

By Anonymous Generallee, at August 1, 2007 at 1:10 PM  

The Rudy drum needs to be beat by those of us who vote and are conservative.

We need to take to task Republicans that are willing to compromise Ideology for Electability. This includes the GOP media elites who are supposed to be conservative but are not. They haven't beat the drum for all aspects of conservatism in a long time and the reason for that is that many of them are as inept socially as Rudy is. This is why they feel Rudy works best for the country. As a consertive this needs to be brought to the surface and dealt with otherwise we're going to face a setback and with Hillary or Rudy it won't matter.

We need true conservative representation in the GOP in addition to competence.

One thing that we forget about Guiliani is that if not for 9/11 he would've ended his legacy as a Mayor of a big city who did much but it wouldn't have been as much as what he didn't do for his family and that whole scandal with him and Judy Guiliani. Not to mention the other unsavory things that were circulated at that time including his lackluster performance against Clinton while "testing" the waters for a US Senate run.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 1, 2007 at 3:07 PM  

Well said, Anonymous.
PS. Check out for more on this.

By Anonymous GeneraLee, at August 1, 2007 at 5:02 PM  

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