Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Puppy Love?

Bill Kristol points to the softer side of Barack Obama and notes that seeing it (in Obama’s victory speech) caused him to gulp: "Competence plus warmth is a pretty potent combination," he argues. Indeed.

A bit further on in the article Kristol writes:

Obama was, naturally, asked about the promised-but-not-yet-purchased puppy at his press conference Friday. (If one were being churlish, one might say that it was typical of a liberal to promise the dog before delivering it. A results-oriented conservative would simply have shown up with the puppy without the advance hype.)
Which leads me to this natural suggestion: Maybe that’s the problem with so-called "results-oriented" conservatives. In a country born out of poetry and drama, the problem with "results-oriented" conservatives is that their inability to inspire virtually guarantees that they get no results!

I don’t want to make too much out of the dog story . . . but I think it is illustrative of Obama’s ability and the GOP’s stunning lack of ability to connect with citizens (forget about voters) in a way that seeks to open up the path to friendship. Political friendships are built upon common interests and shared goals and political conflicts are begun because of a differences in one or the other or both. Obama will not be satisfied with merely coming out on top of this most recent political conflict. He wants to build a new and thoroughgoing political friendship that keeps him and his closest friends on top of that conflict for generations to come. Kristol suggests that leading GOP contenders consider bringing home puppies for their kids . . . Sure, fine. Bring home a dog if you want. But contrary to the old saw that "talk is cheap" I’d say that, in this case, that the result is cheap. Talking about it (and all things that open up the ties of friendship between themselves and those who don’t yet consider the GOP their home) is crucial. Talk in this instance is anything but cheap. It’s golden.

Discussions - 6 Comments

In pondering this moment, Kristol would do well to read or, perhaps, re-read Russell Kirk who reminds us that "conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order."

And what should one make of Obama's self-description as a "mongrel"? That works too, along with the rescue requirement. We are cursed to live in interesting times. The Republicans couldn't wrestle Clinton to the ground. Obama will slam-dunk over the diminished GOP almost every time. Only his own team can stop him, though McConnell may be wily and strong enough, on occasion.

"Conservatism is the negation of ideology" - that's a good one. Thanks for the morning chuckle. Ideology is like bad breath - everybody else has it, but never me.

Warmth and the ability to connect are clearly important, but a lack of results has been the main cause of GOP decline for the last few years. The mismanagement of the Iraq War from summer 2003 - early 2007 shattered the Republican reputation for foreign policy competence and the surge, for all its success, could not get that reputation back. The financial crisis also revealed a GOP crisis of competence as McCain came across as incomprehending, out-of-touch, and cynical. I'm all for eloquence, but conservatives would be better off if Bush and McCain had been more results oriented.

I think, Pete, that you raise valid questions but that you are viewing this as a chicken and egg problem and are stuck in the perpetual question of which came first and is more important. The real answer to that question and the point of the story is that the two (chicken and egg) are absolutely and completely inseparable. But both have their origins in the idea and purpose of the thing and must work themselves out in reality in a way that is, at least to some degree, in accordance with the principles set out in that idea. You can no more separate the "eloquence" (as you call it--I'd call it "reason") from the results than you can the chicken from the egg.

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