Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Two Cigarettes in an Ashtray . . .

. . . Patsy Cline used to sing. And that is what we need, it seems to me. We need the equivalent of a smoker on our ticket in ’O8. "Say what?" you ask. Read Lawler’s posts below about Obama’s smoking and check the links, then read on.

I hadn’t even considered the marked contrast between the cool smoker Obama and Mitt Romney until Lawler brought it up in his post below. Consider that contrast for a moment . . . Oooouch! That would be bad for us, it seems. And it wouldn’t so much be an anti-Mormon thing as it is an anti-goody-too-shoes thing. That, of course plays into the stereo-type of Republicans as a bunch of uptight old guys with really bad wedgies. Romney would have to work very hard to prove that his own preferences against these doing these things himself do not reflect any kind of new-age temperance movement. But then, Lincoln didn’t smoke or drink and yet was able to thoroughly enjoy the company of those who did and, moreover, not make them feel embarrassed for their choices. I suppose Romney might, if he were very clever, be able to use the sentiment Obama could create against the Democrats: i.e., he could demonstrate that the positions Obama takes on the issues show a real and more devastating kind of intolerance to personal choice and that the Democratic party does more oppressively represent the soft-despotism of the finger-wagging old school. He would have to differentiate big from small vices. But he would have to be very clever to pull it off if he does not indulge in even the smallest of vices. If he got any traction at all here, the left would trot out their tired, old, but amazingly effective gun about sexual liberation and the perceived Republican backwardness on these issues. Not to mention their anti-science superstitions (to use their words).

Don’t we have any cooler, rougher seeming Republicans who could work this issue and carve this image right?

Giuliani seems better than Romney for the "coolness" factor at first glance. Speaking only about his general appeal and not his positions on the issues, I have always thought that I would prefer him to any of the other contenders. He is a tough guy who messed with the mob and talked tough to the terrorists after all. There is a kind of old-fashioned manly quality to his brusque New York ways. But his stated opinions on these moral questions and his own problems in that arena mean that he would have to more or less leave the charge of prudishness in the Republican party unanswered. His silence would leave the party susceptible to further charges of hypocrisy. I don’t think it’s a smart strategy for Republicans to try and sweep that issue under the rug if they mean to--as they must do--make gains among the young.

Because the GOP will never win anything without social conservatives and because the country will collapse into degeneracy if social conservatives are entirely ignored, there is nothing left to do here, it seems, but to persuade young people that the GOP is right about this stuff. The question is, who can best do that? I have no good answer to that question but I know this much: he has to be cool--not a church lady. He has to have a great sense of humor and a thick skin. He should be a little vulnerable on these questions--but not have gaping holes in his moral armor--and where vulnerable show appropriate self-deprecating humor but not pretend to excuse himself. He must be able to make an appeal to morality that is based in more than glittering "higher truths" (though he mustn’t denounce these). He should, it seems to me, ground his appeal in self-interest rightly understood and cold, calculating reason. Find that guy, and we will do well now and well into the future. Fail to find him, and I think we will continue to lose ground.

Discussions - 19 Comments

I don’t think you’ve listened to that song, because it’s called "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray". The number is a key lyrical element of what the song is about.

Craig: yes, I know that’s the title. But the song starts out with TWO cigarettes in the ashtray until that floozy shows up. Here’s hoping that if the GOP listens to me (ha!) there won’t be a third in this race!

This sounds like an attempt to channel Peggy Noonan. We Republicans cannot afford to play these games when we consider the nominating process. We will not win by "out-cooling" the Democrats, not when they control the major media. We will not win by internalizing and worrying about the "uncool" image they will foist on us NO MATTER WHAT. We must focus like a laser on the strengths, not the supposed weaknesses, of our message as party. Which major candidate is closest to that message and who will be SERIOUS about it???? NOT who can look good on Jay Leno, for God’s sake. The kinds of idiots who go by that sort of thing will vote Democratic for some other reason, even if they "like" our guy personally. Much more important are Middle Americans -- the "unyoung, unpoor, and unblack," as someone put it back in the Sixties or thereabouts.

T.R.: I take the Peggy Noonan thing as a high compliment. Thanks!

Seriously, however, I share your concern about an apparent focus on things that are not serious or high minded. But we cannot be so high minded or principled as to ignore perceptions. Perceptions that are this widely held must have some element of truth in them and must be answered. To ignore them is to (as you seem to be inclined to do) call a large number of your fellow citizens idiots. The "unyoung" will die. The "young" will get older and vote more--as the boomers did after the 60s. I don’t think it was a good strategy for the GOP of the 60s and 70s to ignore the boomers when they were young and it is not a good strategy for us to ignore the young of today. There is nothing worse (or more pathetic) however, than an old guy trying to be "young" or "hip" with his looks or his attire or his language. I do not argue that the GOP should try to be cool in this sense. No! Such people are justly ridiculed. Real "coolness" demonstrates itself as something to be followed rather than following a crowd itself. I argue for persuasion rather than pandering. Young people always appreciate persuasion more than pandering more in the end because those who try to persuade you of something are paying you the compliment of intellectual respect.

This is something that I think could be cultivated as a GOP strong point. That is: "we respect you and your intelligence enough to think that you are capable of making your own choices without government interfering and protecting you from them."

Besides, many people seem to be losing sight of my point that Obama’s cigarettes represent a metaphor for something missing in the GOP field. It does not need to be interpreted in a literal sense. That would be rather a copy-cat thing at this point.

Um, am I citing the obvious that McCain is obviously the most "cool." Tough guy war prisoner for six years...hello.

But T.R. has it more right...this "coolness" and "manliness" b.s. has always been way of the rails with people who are obsessed with stupid images instead of actual goodness.

Uh, am I citing the obvious here? McCain is pushing 70. True, that distinguishes him from the baby boomers--at least by a little--but it’s in the opposite (and maybe the wrong) direction. Reagan could pull it off but Reagan was, dare I say it, cool. Reagan exuded coolness in the sense I mean it. Is McCain? True, he has a tough image but I wouldn’t exactly call it "cool." Sometimes it just seems downright unhinged and angry. Cool has a quality of aloofness or indifference to personal criticism that has never been something I’d exactly say McCain has been able to demonstrate.

I would further say that Clint and TR are obsessed with what they deem to be "actual goodness" in a way that will make them very lonely as it will win them few friends by way of endearment or conversion.

"...persuade young people that the GOP is right about this stuff. The question is, who can best do that?"

Seems like to me you are focusing on something very nebulous (i.e. "coolness"). You persuade young people like the rest, if by "young people" you mean 20 something’s. This demographic is reflexively liberal because they don’t have the experience to realize intentions are not enough. They are always going to be more susceptible to the populist/liberal chant.

Besides, in your effort to be "cool" you end up (perhaps unintentionally) in the libertarian camp. Not sure how that squares with your recognition of social conservativism...

Here’s Romney’s killer vice, should he care to take my advice: cigars


Imagine Romney lighting up a cigar in front of the media on the stump.

Look, take it from a manly man who is an ex-cigarette smoker and an inveterate cigar smoker. Nothing says man like a cigar. And, done in moderation, you don’t have that nasty habit thing.

If I were Romney I’d be shoving one in the face of the media types yesterday.

Julie, I would suggest that a candidate who fearlessly expresses conservative views, if he can do it without being dull or too self-righteous, will take on the "cool" qualities you yearn for. Not among all voters, of course, but among those who are intelligent enough to have a somewhat sophisticated definition of coolness. I think we both agree that it’s not necessary to play the sax on a TV show, say what kind of underwear you like, have drugs and womanizing in your past, etc. Rather than follow the pack, our cool candidate needs to get people to think in a new way. A classic example: The college student back in the Sixties who, speaking to Reagan, criticized his generation for not growing up with "computers, jet travel" and the like. "You’re right," Reagan said. "We didn’t grow up with those things. We invented them."

Amend the Constitution and nominate Ahh-nuld; he smokes cigars, doesn’t he? And he’s cool.

Arnold is very un-cool to all serious Republicans. He has been wantonly selling them (us) out for over a year now. Let’s focus on the real issues and stop playing games. The nominating process has begun. If we conservatives want to play a real role, we need to get onto the field, not sit back and make jokes among ourselves. Humorless? Perhaps. Maybe necessary, too.

Humor. A sense of humor in a presidential candidate. I like it. As you can imagine, serious issues dealt with as I’d like to hear them dealt with would be requisite. However, a candidate with a sense of humor appeals to me more than a candidate with a humidor.


Oh. But I’m not young. Maybe what I would like doesn’t count.

Humor in a candidate is absolutely a good idea. But my point is that it’s of no help in choosing a candidate to best represent (or, least misrepresent) conservative views. And that is the highest priority. For what it’s worth, I think McCain is the most humorless of the candidates running in the GOP contest. He also happens to be the worst from a conservative standpoint.

I like Joe’s Ahhnuuld idea. He seems very "cool" in the ways that Julie and Peter are looking for. The rest of us might like a little substance...but Arnold has manly muscle and talks "cool."

I would further say that Clint and TR are obsessed with what they deem to be "actual goodness" in a way that will make them very lonely as it will win them few friends by way of endearment or conversion.

Well excuse me. I think outside certain areas (California) people still think that it’s "cool" to just be a good person. Manly and "cool" people like my dad are very "boring." They don’t smoke, drink, swear (except when driving nails), they work crappy 40 hour-a-week jobs, and go to church. I guess they aren’t in the movies, and they aren’t President, but most people still respect them. Perhaps, to quote another country song, I just live in "a place where even squares can have a ball." But I’ve always hated liberals talking about how cool Bill Clinton was compared to boring old George H.W. Bush. Now it seems some conservatives are wowed as well.

I don’t think just doing the right thing and standing up for it is ever going to go out of style, unless conservatives start falling all over smokers and mormon men for no good reason.

...I would also say that Romney is the worst conservative for my money in the bunch.

I think y’all should nominate Doyle Brunson...where does he stand on important issues? Who cares? The man has made a living out of making the right sorts of judgements in borderline situations. Really in the end what matters other than coolness in the selection of a president? I want a president with ice water in his veins.

"He should, it seems to me, ground his appeal in self-interest rightly understood and cold, calculating reason."-Yes. "He has to have a great sense of humor and a thick skin"-exactely! He should be a person who puts his finger to the wind...to get a sense of how to go about getting what he wants.

Perceptive, Astute, Clever, Cool and Calm under extreme pressure...A true deciderer in chief...someone who knows how to project confidence and inspire it. Someone who consults and always knows why he is making the decision he ends up making. Someone who is Resolute. Someone who picks his battles, who is selectively aggressive. All the so called "positions on issues" are just chimera...Character first.

Here’s the problem, TR and Clint: Bill Clinton won. He won handily. He didn’t have character, though he was a character. Why can’t we find someone who both has character and is a character? It’s a tall order and it may be more a Utopian wish than a thought. But it may take that, in my view, to get people to remember the difference.

"Why can’t we find someone who both has character and is a character?"

Probably because of the way we conceptualize the two...it appears that they are contradictory...Being a character means being the joker...the prankster, the Huck Finn. Having Character usually means being serious, astutute, businesslike. I point out that my generation cannot really be about making the Forbes list if it is also about Tattoo’s...Someone who is a character might have a tattoo...Someone who has character doesn’t have a tattoo. Not that these are absolutes...or that there is anything decidely rational about these prejudicial characterizations...but these prejudicial characterizations...these apperances define how people respond to us...which sets off a chain reaction. If I wear a suit and tie to the poker table...I give off a different vibe than if I wear Rocca Wear, a gold chain and a visor. If someone dresses like a Thug you assume things...If someone dresses like Donald Trump you expect something else. I may play the same either way or I may play contradictorily to my established table image, In fact I will probably be wreckless with the suit and tie and conservative when wearing the Rocca Wear...In other words I will always play in such a way as to maximize my positive expectation usually by employing the opposite of what perception should indicate to my thinking opponent.

In any case if you ask me often times those who are characters do have character...and those who supposedly have character are really big jokers.

Maybe it is just my jaded self...but people will respond poorly to those men who have character...when it appears that they go out of the way to show that they have character, or when they attempt to show that they are also characters(see Alpha Male Gore). It just seems too artificial...people are aware on some level that Politicians are all too often just snake oil sales men. So people cling to politicians who say the things that by the ontological structures they hold to counts as character. So Liberals say that a politician has character if he will stand up to Big Business, vote against the war, increase the minimum wage, fight to keep union jobs, support a woman’s right to choose...blah, blah, blah and Conservatives say that a politician has character when the principles he spouts line up with the ideological standard they trumpet. Some Liberals and some conservatives attack Bush’s character because he doesn’t trumpet what they believe he should by the litmus they hold...but in truth Bush is both a character and he has character. I don’t like Bush but I will give him that much...Heck I would love to hear what you have to say about President Bush along the lines of being a character/having character. Is it really Utopian? The Cowboy and the President...notice that it isn’t necessarily wrong to be cowboy like and President...but that perception seems to make it so...or does it?

How would Wall Street react to a CEO who skydived, rode a chopper and had multiple tattoo’s? Can the Democrats deal with a liberal who smokes, and talks about religion? Can you be a garden-variety liberal and a Muslim?

By what standard? By what measure can you answer such questions? And is your answer ever not itself completely dependent on a specific measure?

Let Barbara Mandrell and George Jones croon the marching tune: "I was country when country wasn’t cool." Enough with the cool already.

Julie, having character and being a character is a fair point, but we want someone to have character first.

And I’ve never bought the myth that Clinton was that amazing; he never got to 50%. Also a lot of people who are characters (in the way you are searching for) are so because they have less character.

...Let’s just stop blowing smoke here and agree that looking for a candidate with character (good, conservative, etc) should be the 1st step.

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