Free-Form Re-From

Written by Christopher Caldwell on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

Em, well,
no, Bob. It’s that the mainstream media and the nonmainstream media and
the semi-mainstream media and everyone who reads any of them cannot abide that
she’s totally unqualified to be president. On top of that, she leaves
the impression of being a nut-cutting Machiavellian jerk. On which subject,
the best line of last week’s hurricane was Jay Leno’s to the effect
that it was blowing so hard somebody saw Elizabeth Dole’s hair move.

The question
that fascinates me most, though, is this: Why didn’t Dole write that letter
to Time, or to The New York Times, considerably more of a national
newspaper than that bipartisan house organ The Washington Post?
Answer: Because Dole has the opinion that all pols get nominated by a clique
of Washington insiders. After all, he did.

Dole turns
out to be right. Let’s look at some of the "outsider" candidates
who are being bandied about as ones to "shake up" our political "establishment."
Pat Buchanan for instance. There’s no doubt he has his share of supporters
in the heartland, but this is a man who’s spent half his life working in
various White Houses and half his life as a television pundit. You don’t
get more establishment than that.

And couldn’t
the Reformers have found a better match? While he now focuses largely on trade,
it’s the GOP’s tolerance of abortion that first caused Buchanan to
blow his wig. So now he’s fleeing into the arms of a party that declares
abortion off the political table.

But if the
mating dance between Pat Buchanan and the Reform party is fraught with hypocrisy
on both sides, it’s the Reformers who deserve the lion’s share of
the blame. In the past two weeks, the Bush camp has been sending emissaries
to Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in an effort to keep Buchanan from getting the
Reform nod, and Ventura’s been playing ball with them.

Not that
Ventura doesn’t have a real problem, and a real reason to want to keep
Buchanan out of his party. There are basically two constituencies in America
who are drastically underrepresented in our present politics: populists who
sense they’ve been screwed by the global economy, and libertarians who
rightly see a kind of slo-mo putsch by regulatory authoritarians. The Reform
Party represents neither of these tendencies, but it’s a tempting vehicle
for both of them to try to capture. That’s why Jesse ultimately can’t
play ball with Pat. Jesse’s a Lib and Pat’s a Pop.

Ventura’s negotiation with the Bushies is quite a Profile in Illogic. The
Reform Party’s raison d’etre is that the two-party establishment has
degenerated into a club for backroom deals. And here’s the most prominent
member of that party engaging in backroom deals to protect the establishment
wing of one of those parties. So desperate is Ventura, whose own hands are tied
by a solemn electoral promise to serve out his full four-year gubernatorial
term, that he has expressed a willingness to consider Donald Trump as
the party’s presidential nominee. That’s even better! A party founded
to stop backroom dealing might choose as its standard-bearer the single American
who has bragged most obnoxiously about his prowess as a backroom dealer.

As was first
reported here last month, it’s the former Reagan consultant Roger Stone
who’s trying to manufacture a Trump candidacy out of thin air. "A
lot of people," Roger says, "have questions about where Donald Trump
stands on the major issues of the day."

Yeah, sure.
Much as I like Roger, I can only reply: Name one.

I may still
be giving the Reformers too much credit. There are indications that the party
is merely a little pond in which the losers of Yesterday’s Doctrinaire
Liberalism can flap around as big fish. Former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker,
than whom no liberal is more doctrinaire, was begging on his hands and knees
for the nomination, which was denied him only when polling established that
Weicker would pull about half a percent of the vote nationally. What’s
disturbing is that the Weicker boomlet–and boomlet may be too strong a
word for it; let’s call it a "boomlecule"–was centered in
Minnesota, which is supposed to be, thanks to Ventura, the most dynamic of the
state Reform parties. But all these guys sound like Weicker’s kind of 1974-era
Ripon Society Republicans. Here’s Minnesota Reform Party founder Dean Barkley
on Crossfire, explaining why Buchanan’s such a bad match: "It’s
going to be very interesting whether or not he can take abortion, gay rights,
some of those other divisive issues that, as a party, we don’t believe
are political, they’re individual decisions, and put those on the back
burner and market himself to, I’d say, the centrist wing of our party,
to say that he saw the error of his ways and now he’s going to be a true
reformer and these issues should not be political issues."

Yecch! There’s
a lot of this kind of sanctimony about lately–in which the most contentious
political ideas are decreed by their opponents to be beyond discussion. Take
ABC’s Charles Gibson, who interviewed Al Gore the other day and opened
by mewing about how he didn’t want to turn guns into a political issue.
To which Gore replied: "Well, you said you didn’t want to politicize
it. I can assure you it is the last thing that I want to do and I don’t
want to get into a discussion like that." It amounts to an attempt to reach
McCarthyite, speech-quashing ends through lovey-dovey, pseudo-ecumenical means.

Go Tell It on Lamontagne
New Hampshire Republican hack Ovide Lamontagne has heretofore been best known
for pulling the unusual-for-a-Republican feat of losing the Granite State governor’s
race in a landslide in 1996. That proved the perfect resume for Lamontagne’s
next job: point man for Dan Quayle’s presidential primary effort in New
Hampshire. Last week, Lamontagne started complaining that Steve Forbes is plagiarizing
his candidate’s speeches.

Quayle has
been talking all summer long about how Democrats blocking school vouchers are
like George Wallace "standing in the schoolhouse door" to block integration
in Alabama. And in early September, Forbes said in a speech to the National
Baptist Convention, "Not long ago, certain politicians stood in the schoolhouse
door to keep children out of good schools. Today, we find big government politicians
standing in the schoolhouse door to keep children trapped in dangerous, failing

a resemblance?
Lamontagne asked the Manchester Union-Leader. Huh?

Well, not
really. Among Yesterday’s Republicans school vouchers has become an all-purpose
substitute for a governing vision. Accuse one of them of having no ideas and
he’ll say, "Of course we have ideas. There’s…um…um…

there’s…um….that school thing!" And anytime a Republican brings
the matter up, they lean back on the George Wallace line. It’s almost compulsory
if you’re going to run for anything as a Republican.

Last March,
two municipal candidates in Milwaukee, where school choice got its start, began
arguing about vouchers. The civil-rights parallel was near to hand. As the Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel
put it: "Noting that Taylor sent her children to Lutheran
schools, Gardner said it was disappointing that she was ‘standing in the
schoolhouse door’ preventing low-income children from having the same options."

But the
New York Post had said in an editorial in November 1998: "Liberalism
now has its own George Wallaces standing in schoolhouse doors, blocking poor
children from the means of making choices of a sort taken for granted by nonpoor
Americans (including liberalism’s Wallaces)." They were only following
the lead of Trent Lott, who the previous April had said Democrats were "standing
at the schoolhouse door barring the way for a quality education for the children
who quite often need it the most."

in the last days of 1997, the Reaganite political guru Ken Khachigian had averred
that "trepidant [sic] Republicans and Democrats alike should realize that
the cause of choice is as inevitable as the civil rights movement was in the
’50s and ’60s. In place of demagogues standing at the schoolhouse
door blocking entry, today’s demagogues are inside the schoolhouse blocking

The summer
before, Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, urging a school choice program for DC, had said
that low-income parents testifying before a Senate committee were "confused
by liberals committed to standing at the schoolhouse door to prevent their children
from entering functional integrated schools."

In 1992,
during the Bush administration, someone at the Heritage Foundation–probably
my dear pal Marshall Wittman of Waco, TX, the ex-Angela Davis associate who
has become the most quoted rightist in Washington–described Milwaukee vouchers
opponent Bert Grover as: "a man standing in the schoolhouse door and saying

At any rate,
for one Republican to accuse another of plagiarizing "standing in the schoolhouse
door" is like a Clinton aide accusing some Democrat of plagiarizing the
phrase "Medicare Medicaid Education and the Environment." It has been
repeated to the point where it’s gibberish. The most shocking thing is
that Lamontagne didn’t use it in his 1996 race. Maybe that’s why he
lost so bad.