Bill Kristol Accidentally Tells the Truth

… and it’s not just the fact that it isn’t 1980 any more.

Kristol, having noticed that Ronald Reagan is dead, compares the election of Ronald Reagan to a famous quotation of William Faulkner about Pickett’s Charge. This is Faulkner —

For every Southern boy 14 years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a 14-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago .  .  .

—William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

Faulkner, of course, is describing a desire to go back to the moment before the Cause was Lost, before Robert E. Lee sent 9 infantry brigades across an open field to attack the center of the Union line at Gettysburg, resulting in a bloodbath from which the Confederacy never recovered. The war continued, but for a time it was commonly felt the South lost the war on that field.

Kristol evokes Faulkner to wax nostalgic about the election of Reagan —

For every American conservative, not once but whenever he wants it, it’s always the evening of November 4, 1980, the instant when we knew Ronald Reagan, the man who gave the speech in the lost cause of 1964, leader of the movement since 1966, derided by liberal elites and despised by the Republican establishment, the moment when we knew—he’d won, we’d won, the impossible dream was possible, the desperate gamble of modern conservatism might pay off, conservatism had a chance, America had a chance. And then, a decade later—the Cold War won, the economy revived, America led out of the abyss, we’d come so far with so much at stake—conservatism vindicated, America restored, a desperate and unbelievable victory for the cast made so many years ago against such odds.

And I’m thinking, WTF? Because it’s really the rest of us who ought to be comparing November 4, 1980, to Pickett’s Charge. “For every American liberal there is the instant when Ronald Reagan wasn’t elected yet …” That would be the parallel to Faulkner.

America didn’t actually end that day, but someday historians may say November 4, 1980, was the beginning of the end.

Kristol doesn’t actually concede the election to Democrats as much as say that none of the pack of mutts running for the nomination could fill Reagan’s shoes, and if elected, that president will not lead us into a Second Morning in America. Well, thanks for that, anyway.

17 thoughts on “Bill Kristol Accidentally Tells the Truth

  1. The eight years of George Bush and the Republican majority has proven conservatism doesn’t work. It does not make the country richer or better off. It will be a cold day in hell when conservatism is vindicated.

  2. Right Bonnie; kinda like having a pet python that you’re very proud to own that eats your baby.How, oh how could that snake have done such a horrible thing?( I ate an apple yesterday, and nobody is pissed about that!)
    The reality is, that’s what they do, and they will do it again soon.

    BTW. I can’t imagine Kristol being involved an any activity more physical than hitting a golf ball, he can forget the military fantasy.

    As far as the Republican clown show goes, maybe they really don’t want the WH this time. With things this f’ed up, perhaps it’s better to loose this cycle and stay on the sidelines and just whine, bitch, and snipe for the next four years.(especially since they may loose both houses)
    During Obama’s presidency, Bin Laden was eliminated, Gaddaffy goes bye-bye, The war in Iraq is drawing down,Somali pirates have been smacked, drone strikes have been increased, the Af-Pac war has intensified, airport security has been elevated, the stock market has done pretty well, and the job market is rising (but painfully slow).All things Republicans would be crowing about if one of theirs had the helm.

  3. Yes, the ‘decline and fall of America’ began with the ‘Reagan De-evolution.’

    And Faulkner is an apt model for modern Conservatism. It’s all about ‘the sound and the fury!’ But in reality, it signifies nothing good for humanity (Ok, it’s actually Shakespeare – so shoot me!).

    And Pickett was probably George W. Bush’s hero. He didn’t want to pay cash to not win a war either.
    He charged!
    *rim shot*
    I’ll be here all week – try the prime rib, and don’t forget to tip the wait staff.

  4. America led out of the abyss

    I think Kristol gets a little too caught up in his Conservative fantasy.

  5. The deification of Ronald Reagan reminds me a lot of what China has done with Chairman Mao. Despite Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward (causing 35 million Chinese to starve), his Cultural Revolution (a few million more deaths), economic policies that set China back 30 years, and political repression that continues to this day, young Chinese people see him as some sort of God. His giant portrait still stares down from the north gate overlooking Tiananmen Square. On the south side of the square, Chinese tourists line up daily to visit the Mao Mausoleum to view the Great Helmsman preserved and pickled body. Mao’s photo still graces the Chinese Y100 bill:

    At least America hasn’t got a Reagan Mausoleum…yet. I won’t be surprised if President Perry orders one built. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Repugs decide to pull Ben Franklin’s picture off the $100 bill and replace it was Reagan’s smiling Alzheimer’s face. Next time Texas revises textbooks, I expect that Reagan will be labeled the “True Founding Father,” right alongside there with Jesus.

    Erinyes said:
    During Obama’s presidency, Bin Laden was eliminated, Gaddaffy goes bye-bye, The war in Iraq is drawing down,Somali pirates have been smacked, drone strikes have been increased, the Af-Pac war has intensified, airport security has been elevated, the stock market has done pretty well, and the job market is rising (but painfully slow). All things Republicans would be crowing about if one of theirs had the helm.

    I do hope that you’re trying to be facetious there, Erinyes. Yes, I give Obama points for scoring a hit on bin Laden and Ghaddafi – I was in favor of both actions. The “winding down” of the Iraq War – not fast enough, as far as I’m concerned, but better than Bush, so I’ll give a half-point. Somali pirates smacked – pretty lame smack in my opinion, but also better than nothing, so I’ll give Obama another half-point. Drone strikes have been increased, the Af-Pac war has intensified – yes, the Repubs would like that if Obama was a Republican, but personally I need to start subtracting points. Airport security has been elevated – yeah, the Repugs should be happy that their kids are getting molested and/or zapped with x-rays at airports, but only if someone like Bush ordered it (forgive me for not having much enthusiasm for this “accomplishment” either). The stock market has done pretty well, and the job market is rising (but painfully slow) – amazing what $18 trillion in bailouts can do, but wait until the bill comes due, as it will, so minus 5 if I’m keeping score.

    You forgot to mention that the Guantanamo Gulag is still open for business. Again, the Repubs would be cheering if we had a Repub president, but they won’t give Obama credit for that “accomplishment.” Another point off.

    If I were grading Obama for performance, I’d give him a D+ or C- at best. Of course, if we had McCain-Palin, we’d have to invent a grade lower than F (G, or maybe H). Ditto for Bush, and Reagan.

  6. Candide – If governing was the Tour de France, you’d be correct in noting that President Obama is no Lance Armstrong. But the federal government is a bicycle built for two and Congress occupies the back seat. For the first two years, republicans obstructed from the minority with the filibuster and for the last year the House has allowed nothing constructive to be considered. It’s fair to note things this administration hasn’t done, but the observation is defective if you don’t see how half the ‘team’ has locked the brakes for three years.

  7. I wish the networks ran a ticked whenever a pundits invokes the legacy of Reagan. Here’s a sample of the ticker.

    “In Reagan’s first term, federal spending INCREASED by 14.5% – in the first term the federal debt INCREASED by 49%.”

    “In Reagan’s second term, spending INCREASED by 7.4% and the debt increased by 40%.”

    “Under Reagan, the national debt went from 900 billion to 2.8 trillion. Most economists consider massive deficit spending by government to be an economic stimulus.”

    “Regan cut the top tax rate from 70% to 28%.”

  8. Funny, isn’t it, how the foundational beliefs of True Believers are fantstical-mythological in the objective view? Living here in the South but being unenamored of The Lost Cause, I find myself hearing the longing for slavery days echoing in every breath of the modern “conservatives” and their low-wage-self-reliance-good-old-days notions of how wonderful things were in the 1930-1950 era.

    Doug: your ticker idea is brilliant. It reminds me of Jason Linking on HuffPo’s Sunday morning talk show roundup. He inserts a deficit analysis chart into his summaries every time an interviewee or host tells another whopper about our present distress. Of course, to get “news” persons on the teevee or radio to have actual facts at their command is just too much to ask, when it is far cheaper and easier for them to do stories in what I call the “some say” mode. Think of the savings in reportorial time and effort! A few more years of it and the deficit will probably be paid off, some say!

  9. My guess is that what speaks to Kristol in the Faulkner quote is the 14-year-old’s longing to rewrite history, so that, in at least in their imaginary game, Pickett’s Charge is a success, and the South wins.

    A similar desire must have been in the heart of young weasels, er, Conservatives during the 60’s and 70’s, and then, miraculously, their dreams came true when St. Ronnie was elected. The “lost cause” of Conservatism, (aka Rich White Man’s Privilege) that for decades had failed to repeal the New Deal, and was losing on civil rights, and women’s rights, etc., had triumphed.

    (Yeah, Kristol is impervious to the irony of his identification with the Confederacy.)

    But Poor Billy has to wake up from his ecstatic dream now, though, because modern “Conservatives” are, well, just plain lame. There isn’t going to be another thrilling success this year, no iconic hero like St. Ronnie to lift the banner and lead the charge and transform long years of defeat into victory.

    This might seem strange to a person who lives in the real world, where since St. Ronnie it has been a long string of success for Conservatives, and they are frighteningly on top of the world, so they aren’t even vaguely embattled, much less a ‘lost cause.’

    But Kristol lives in the Right-Winger Mentality, where they are always losing, especially when they are winning, and their oppression starting with FDR has yet to be overthrown.

    The mere fact that a Democrat is in the White House, no matter that he is a moderate who regularly stiffs the left side of the party and is a more effective war hawk than his predecessor, gives Kristol the pretext for identifying as the ‘down’ dog, and once again longing for the remembered thrill of 1980.

    He’s an idiot.

  10. Picket”s Charge is perhaps appropriate. It was an assault on the center of the Union forces, an uphill battle (literally) in the open, with disastrous results. Conservatism may well be masking for a similar result politically. I emphasize ‘in the open’ because the Ryan plan is out there and Republicans overwhelmingly voted in support of privatizing Medicare while lowering taxes for the rich. All the ‘flat tax’ schemes are a gift to the rich, paid by everyone else. IF the votes figure out that the GOP plans all shift the tax burden to the middle, gut assistance for the poor, and demolish the safety net for the elderly – the GOP *could* be decimated in the election, as Picket’s army was.

    We don’t need to ‘spin’ anything – just get the truth out there.

  11. And yet, so great is the hagiography around RayGun that I was shocked by a poll that showed a majority of Americans would prefer him to be running the country. He came in at 36% to FDR’s 29%. I think it demonstrates that the generation that survived the Depression is dying off, and it also underscores my own personal need to leave this country.

  12. Way, OT, but I thought I’d share an e-mail I sent my friends:

    RIP Andy Rooney!

    Well, Andy Rooney died this week, proving once again there is NO such thing as “minor” surgery when you’re 92!
    Or, if YOU’RE the one undergoing it – no matter how old you are.

    I wonder if “60 Minutes” will have auditions for his spot at the end of the show?
    It could replace “Dancing With People Who Once Met Stars!”
    Or that show for the unemployed that everyone seems to watch for God know what reason – “American’s Idle.”
    Maybe, they could call it – “America’s Curmudgeoning!”

    Here, let me try:

    “Look at my desk here.
    See these photo’s?
    These are all cars.
    Now, when I first left the military after WWII, when I got my first real job, I went out and bought myself a new car. A 1947 Studebaker. It was a beat! We used to say things like that – “beaut…” Now, those are only in Montana.
    Now, look at these great cars made over the years. The years when Americans knew how to make cars.
    Here’s a ’57 Chevy.
    Here’s a ’59 Cadillac – look at those tail-fins! Marilyn Monroe didn’t have a back-end half so beautiful! And look at those headlights. On the car, I mean.
    Here’s a ’66 GTO.
    A ’67 Camaro.
    A ’67 Corvette.
    A ’69 Mustang.
    A ’71 Dodge Charger. With a “Hemi’ engine. “Hemi!” Sounds like a word a guy would like. A guy word. “Hemi…”
    You could tell not only which company made the car, but what year. Just by looking at a picture. Or, even a silhouette.
    Imagine that?

    And then we had the1970’s oil shortage.

    And what happened?
    The price of gas skyrocketed. “Skyrocketed” – there’s a word that use to mean something when America still rocketed.
    Well, engines go smaller.
    And that was smart.
    Cars got more aerodynamic.
    Also smart.
    We had to save gas.
    But here was the problem – the cars looked more an more alike.
    Here, to prove my point, take a look at these photo’s of last years cars.
    Here’s a Ford.
    Here’s a Chevy.
    A Lexus.
    That’s a Nissan.
    A BMW.
    A Hond…
    No, that’s wrong.
    Here’s the Honda.
    That’s the Lexus.
    This is the Chev…
    No, wait, God Damn it!
    Here’s the damn Chevy.
    This is the lousy Lexus.
    Here’s the fricking For..
    No, crap, that’s the Nissan!
    Mother… God… GRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrr!

    And that’s my point!
    They ALL look alike!!!
    Today’s cars may be “aero” – but they’re hardly “dynamic.” ‘

    “Well, how was that?
    The cursing?
    Oh, well you can edit that out, can’t you?
    What’s the point of being a goddamned curmudgeon if you can’t curse once in a while?

    Next week?
    Well, I haven’t given it much too much thought.
    But now that you mention it, I was thinking that about the only thing that was screwed-up as badly as the auto industry was 42nd St. in NY City. So, I thought I’d talk about the peep shows and how a pocketful of quarters could turn into the time of your young lif…
    What’s that?
    For me?
    Thank you.
    Hmmm… So the slips really ARE pink!
    Maybe, instead of that I could do a segment on those skyrocke…
    Too late, huh?
    Oh well…
    Go FORD yourself!

  13. It’s true that Reagan’s election was the beginning of the end, and one of the biggest reasons is that he did so much to flatten the tax rates.

    It’s a crazy perversity, but it’s true: if you *lower* income taxes, you *raise* the net cost of hiring and benefits. Two now-obvious results: fewer US jobs, and the complete collapse of private pensions.

    At a 70% tax rate, an employees net after-tax cost is 30% of employee expenses. At a 35% tax rate, the net cost is more than twice as much – and anything that’s more expensive will be reduced, if it can.

    At a 70% tax rate, a pension was a good way to pay one’s self some extra cash (sure, it’s only accessible after retirement), and usually at less net cost than actually taking the money home. Most pensions had more than 30% of the benefits for the owners/partners – so, after taxes, it was a net benefit. And, with ERISA, the ordinary employees had to get benefits too. But now, well… now it’s pretty rare to find the employer contributing anything but a matching contribution to a 401(k), and not everyone does *that*.

  14. Tom – My quarrel with the Reagan legacy is the fraud implicit in the myth. If he’s the patron saint of conservatism, let’s concede that his economic success was based on pure Keyesian economics. That is massive deficit government spending which spurred economic growth. It worked. Give the man his due credit. Once the economy is booming, you have to rebuild national coffers.

    Clinton tried to turn the corner – he got closer to a balanced budget than any republican president since who-knows-when. Keyesian and liberals know that once you are out of the recession, taxes have to go up to balance the budget and pay down the debt. This is so sane, so obvious and so responsible it should be the subject of debate.

    Liberals need to talk about Reagan frequently and honestly. Republicans have written a myth which omits the inconvenient economic components which were the basis of the recovery he led. We can count on the GOP to invoke Regan’s ghost. Democrats need to be prepared to ask why republicans won’t do what Reagan did.

  15. Hmmm…Kristol is the guy who said, “All politics are limited and none of them is really based on the truth.” Since Reagan was a politician – you can fill in the rest.

    And, by the way, the tax cuts of Reagan/Bush sucked $2 1/2 trillions out of the budget. So much for Republicans being fiscally responsible and so much for their daily rants on Democrats being fiscally irresponsible.

Comments are closed.