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March 02, 2009

Limbaugh's Speech

I didn't get to blog this as we were kicked off blogger's row an hour or so before he took the stage. I watched it from the bar. The reception was, well, supportive.

If you haven't seen it, it begins here and then proceeds through ten more parts. (It was about 80 minutes long.)

Rush kept making three jokes which worked every time. Mocking Obama, he applauded himself vigorously at the start of the speech (Ann Coulter had just pointed out how weird it was that Barack and Michelle Obama frequently applaud themselves); gave fist-bumps and/or "terrorist fist-jabs" after making a good point; and constantly referred to his speech as his "first national address," parodying the media for its overexcitement about Obama's similar "first."

Near the end of the speech, he also remarked he'd delivered it without aid of teleprompter, to the delight of the room.

One of Rush's main themes was this:

Let me tell you who we conservatives are: We love people. [Applause] When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don't see groups. We don't see victims. We don't see people we want to exploit. What we see -- what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don't think that person doesn't have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.

I liked that and had hoped Rush would use the opportunity of his "first national address" to really sell conservatism to the average American, as Arnold Schwarzenegger did so brilliantly at the 2004 RNC. ("If you believe [common sense principle X], then you're a Republican." ) He hit that, but too lightly for my tastes. He mostly spoke to the base.

I am baffled, however, by Rod "Crunch Con" Dreher's truculent critique. Addressing the Limbaugh quote above, Dreher writes:

This is a comforting lie. It is Rousseau conservatism: the idea that man is born innocent, but corrupted by society, or government. Remove the chains of government, and man will return to his natural, good state, which is one of limitless possibility. This denies two bedrock truths of philosophical conservatism, which are that 1) human nature is fallen, and 2) man must learn to live within limits. A conservatism that is not founded on a conscious recognition of those two truths is a false conservatism, and has a shaky foundation from which to criticize liberal utopianism.

This is silly, bordering on the stupid-silly. Limbaugh's point was to contrast two vehicles for getting to the Good Society: 1) freedom of personal action, relying on people's conscience and self-interest to mostly get them through, and 2) government coercion and instruction. Limbaugh was not postulating that people live in a state of natural grace -- he was making the point that people, left to their own devices, are closer to such a natural state of grace than they are under a government that attempts to bully and bribe them into such a state.

What would be the source of external moral instruction if not the State? Well, Limbaugh didn't address that, but for many Americans, it's religious faith. Had Limbaugh brought that up, I'm guessing Crunchy Non-Con would have had similar carpings.

One point Limbaugh made that Dreher doesn't address -- he noted that many conservative pundits would fall upon themselves to cut down their fellow conservatives in order to ingratiate themselves with the Obama regime and its owned-and-operated media messaging brigade.

There are honest disagreements, and then there is just posturing to demonstrate one is not one of those "bad conservatives" who do all sorts of evil and ugly things like force mortgages on the poor, deny health care to children, and believe in actual conservatism. The anklebiting, contradiction-for-contradiction's sake tenor of Dreher's critique seems to suggest that Rush's counter-critique might have hit too close to home.

Links via Hot Air.


Religious-Left Conservative-Socialism? Shep addresses the crux of the dispute:

What crunchy-con Dreher didn't like was that there was a solid, fusionist, Reaganite libertarian-conservative strain running through Rush's address. His very last line was something to the effect that "we want to make people better, but in the end, what they do behind the doors of their houses is no one's business," or words to that effect. What crunchy-con really means is I want to be a social conservative and control your private lives AND be an economic liberal and control your economic lives through green regulation, enforced health codes, &c., &c. Dreher's conservativism (like Russell Kirk's, in large part) is one essentially of statism and control. What Rush realizes is that what the Republicans need to do now to survive is to re-invigorate a freedom coalition, not succumb to the "moderate/reformist" statists like McCain and David Brooks, or to the alternate-adjective statists like Dreher. If Republican means freedom, personal responsibility, small government and strong defense, we win. If it means "our kind of nanny state instead of theirs," then the Republicans lose -- since who among us can be bothered to play that fool's game.

Perhaps that's right and Dreher isn't merely contradicting to contradict -- perhaps he does dream of strong Daddy Government instructing and bullying us as regards both personal and economic morality.



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posted by Ace at 12:03 PM

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