Before getting into Eric Greitens’ status as a Republican and a Conservative on the basis of his own words, I’ve got to take a moment to note this. In one of Bill Hennessy’s early posts in support of Eric Greitens candidacy for Governor of Missouri, he made a comically failed attempt at prognostication, saying that if the dirty tricks ‘whisper campaigns’ (see my previous post), failed to hurt his candidate, then:
“…If none of that works, they’ll just lie and claim he’s a Democrat.”
As it turns out, the only rumor that I actually had heard about Eric Greitens, was that he had strong democrat ties, and as it turns out, there were very good reasons for people to wonder about whether or not he was a Republican. Greitens himself later disclosed that he was, until recently, a Democrat!
Eric Greitens: Why I am no longer a Democrat: “…I was raised as a Democrat….I registered to vote as a Democrat, and several years ago some Democrats even tried to recruit me to run for Congress…”
I’m sorry, but that’s funny. Poor Bill.
Greitens admitted to having been in discussions about running for office as a democrat, and despite his claims to not being a politician, when he first began to seriously consider a future political, to my mind, that’s when he became an actual politician. When was that? We don’t know, but presumably it has been longer than he’s been a Republican.
So as it turns out, sadly for Bill, those particular concerns were ones that were worth not only whispering about, but raising voices over, but more than that, IMHO, Eric Greitens should have begun his campaign with that revelation right out of the box, rather than letting his supporters be sandbagged with it after a month or more of their denying them in his defense, as Bill was:
“Were you shocked when you learned that Navy SEAL, author, humanitarian, and charity founder, Eric Greitens, was born and raised and voted Democrat?
Sure, I’d heard the rumors. The whispers spread by some Republican campaign operatives. But I’ve learned to trust those campaign operatives about as far as I fund the national debt.”
Is it just me, or, given that those particular ‘whisper campaigns’ proved to be true, does it seem as if Bill has placed his trust/mistrust with the wrong political operatives?
Ok, moving on….
It seems to me that the reasonable questions that should be pursued now, are how grounded and credible are Eric Greitens’ claims to actually being a conservative Republican? Ironically, the only material we have to make that judgment from, is that same article that Greitens wrote to announce that he actually had, until recently (how recently he doesn’t say), been a Democrat. And for me at least, his admission and conversion, although welcome, does very little to assure me of what his political principles are.
So that being said, it’s time to look at his statement, and I’ll explain why it is that I personally find it to be less than satisfying to me.
Take especial note, that he begins his article with this statement:
“I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way. “
While his article could lay a credible claim to his being a Republican, he didn’t stop with claiming to be a Republican only, he claims to be a Conservative Republican, and that qualifier ‘conservative’ requires a bit more information from him than simply having announced that he’d joined the GOP. After all – Lindsay Graham is a Republican too, but you’re not going to find a whole lot of Conservatives or Tea Party members that are going to be too impressed by that, right? To make a credible claim as to being a Conservative, he needs to show a solid level of understanding of the principles behind the constitution (U.S. and MO), as well as a regard for, and commitment to, the U.S. Constitution itself. What has he said to place himself squarely on the Conservative and Tea Party Right, as opposed to being in the middle of the road, or even over there on the side of the road with the RINOs?
The only way to find out, is to begin taking a look at what he himself has said:
“I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way.
I was raised as a Democrat. I was taught that Harry Truman was the greatest president ever because he was strong, stood up to the communists, and most important, he was from Missouri. I was taught to stand up for the little guy, and that bigger government was the best way to do that. I registered to vote as a Democrat, and several years ago some Democrats even tried to recruit me to run for Congress.
There was one rather large problem. As I got older, I no longer believed in their ideas. Even worse, I had concluded that liberals aren’t just wrong. All too often they are world-class hypocrites. They talk a great game about helping the most vulnerable, with ideas that feel good and fashionable. The problem is their ideas don’t work, and often hurt the exact people they claim to help.”
Which is all very welcome, well and good. I personally have no problem in welcoming someone who’s realized their political errors and corrected them, or with believing in the depth of their conversion, but I do need to see evidence of their understanding the principles they claim to have converted to.
Some obvious examples of others who have given ample evidence of just that sort of thing, would be Ronald Reagan, who didn’t just switch parties because one ‘worked better’ than the other, he solidly expressed his grasp of the principles which separated the philosophies of the Left from the Right, in his Goldwater announcement speech, “A Time for Choosing”, and he spent years acting consistently with his words. David Horowitz is another excellent that comes to mind, as someone who was once a deeply entrenched and radical leftist, and he not only switched parties, but has gone to great lengths demonstrating very effectively his understanding of why leftist ideas are faulty and corrupt. A little closer to home in time and place would be Dana Loesch, who began as a democrat operative but soon realized her error, left the Left, and has since demonstrated very well, through actions with the Tea Party, on radio, TV and in print, her solid understanding of, and commitment to, the principles which our Individual Rights rest upon and require.
But being as I’m not, as Bill put it, ‘lazy’ enough to accept someone’s assertions alone, I need evidence that such a person didn’t simply change party affiliations to find a snazzier party. And I feel zero guilt whatsoever in having questions about their status, especially when I see that the reasons which they’ve given for their conversion, are far short of being deep enough reasons to explain the error they claim to have corrected.
For instance, it’s good that he realized that the leftist approach was hypocritical, that it hurt those it claimed to want to help and simply didn’t work. But while that may be enough to explain his becoming a Republican, it isn’t enough to assure people, especially me, that he now has a conservative understanding and approach to political issues. After all, again, Lindsay Graham will tell you the very same thing about the democrats and their policies, but you’d have an easier time selling space heaters in hell, than convincing conservatives that Lindsay Graham was one of them.
So what else has Mr. Greitens given us to go on? What deeds or reasoned insights, rather than simply assertions and labels, has he given us? After reciting a valid list of leftist policies that don’t work, he says:
“I became a conservative because I believe that caring for people means more than just spending taxpayer money; it means delivering results. It means respecting and challenging our citizens, telling them what they need to hear, not simply what they want to hear. “
The first sentence, especially it’s ending, reminds me of earlier statements of ‘smarter’, kinder, gentler, government social programs, which is a big red flag to me, of a republican not being a Tea Party compatible, Free Market Conservative, dedicated to upholding Individual Rights through the Rule of Law under constitutionally limited government.
I don’t think very much of the ‘compassionate conservative’ shtick. I found it appallingly bad when William F. Buckley Jr. pushed it back in the 1990’s (we’ll go into detail why in later posts), it was the reason why I didn’t vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 primary, and I think it pretty much wore its welcome out with the rest of the nation with W’s administration. Demonstrating that you understand the principles that conservatism is derived from requires much more than delivering ‘results’ and telling people what you think they need to hear, we need to hear you demonstrate a desire for the kind of results that are consistent with conservatism, worthwhile and proper to achieve. So far, I haven’t seen that.
“So what would I do? I believe in limited but effective government.”
I’m sorry, but that ‘but’ makes his But look really big to me. When he says ‘but effective‘, he’s saying that as a qualifier on ‘limited government’, which makes it seem to me that his goal is less about ensuring that government remains properly ‘limited’, than about making its ability to deliver ‘results’ more efficiently, to be more important than its being limited. Believing in limited government is highly desirable, but Why should it be limited? I’m not seeing any indication from him as to why government should be limited, and that, for me, has to come before anything else. His words indicate to me that he thinks that there are lots of limitations to those limits on government, especially if they might deliver ‘effective government’. That sends a shudder down my spine.
“I believe in replacing ObamaCare with something that actually works.”
I most emphatically do not. I do not believe that ObamaCare is bad because Obama and the Democrats proposed it, but because govt CANNOT provide any solutions that will not impair the quality and liberty of everyone involved in the area of health care, and so any GovtCare is doomed to failure, and as such we should not attempt to ‘fix’ it, or replace it, but to remove it. I don’t want to replace the devil I know with one I don’t know, I want to exorcise the damn thing, bell, book and candle! I believe in repealing ObamaCare, as well as repealing all the other operational healthcare and insurance industry regulations/corporate favors, and I believe in exterminating every other interference into the free market. That means eliminating all intrusive government ‘solutions’ that prevent people from making intelligent decisions and acting on them for their own reasons. Only by doing that, can a Free Market, which gave us modern health in the first place, be restored.
I’m unable and emphatically unwilling to see anything less than that as a ‘conservative’ solution, though I’ve no doubt you could get Lindsay Graham to go along with it.
“I believe in putting working families and job creation ahead of special interests.”
That sounds, at best, like recalibrating your spin cycle so as to swap one set of special interests for another, for political gain. Switching special big biz interests, for special little guy interests, ultimately means retaining one set of special interests to be doled out as privileges to some, at everyone else’s expense. If you are a Free Market Conservative, dedicated to Individual Rights and the Rule of Law, then you will not seek or accept the swapping of one form of favoritism for another, but will instead desire to eliminate all such special privileges so that all are equal before the law. That would be acceptable. Anything less, and you might as well go talk to Lindsay Graham – I’m sure he’s ready to listen.
“I believe that in a free society we have to defend religious liberties and the 2nd Amendment, and protect innocent life, so everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness.”
This isn’t too bad… but I’d be more comfortable hearing something like “Liberty requires that everyone’s individual rights be respected, and those rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights must be held like daggers in the faces of those who’d like to use power to help and improve our lives for us.“, anything less, is… less.
“I believe in reforming welfare, so every person can have a chance at a life of dignity, purpose, and meaning.”
I do not. I believe in eliminating it. Only then, can every person have a chance at living their own lives.
“And I believe America’s public schools should be the best in the world.”
Yeah, well, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Barrack Obama and Lindsay Graham all say the same things as well, but if you mean to use the centralized powers of the state or federal governments to accomplish that, then you will be saying nothing different than they would, which is nothing that I’d agree with or be willing to go along with.
“As Americans, we deserve much better than what we’re getting from our government. We don’t need more rhetoric. We want results.”
Which of course is just more rhetoric. I don’t want better results from our government, I want less of my government in my life so that I can get the results I deserve. As an American, I deserve to have my govt respect my right to live my own life, and anything more than that is, IMHO, significantly less.
“And that means changing politics as usual, which won’t be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is. You have to fight for what you believe in, and I, for one, have never backed down from that kind of fight.”
There are few things that sound more to me like politics as usual, than a politician saying ‘that means changing politics as usual‘; it’s an easy thing to say, and it’s a meaningless thing to say. Tell me something more meaningful, apply it to something more difficult, explain your principles and how you’d apply them to particular issues facing our state. Anything less than that is nothing more than politics as usual.
I’ve read his book “Heart and Fist“, Eric Greitens is an impressive, admirable fellow, I’d love to have him on our side, and I’d love to be able to believe that he was solidly on our side by means of his principled understanding of what our side is, but to these concerns, as I’ve noted above, I’ve received no credible assurances or answers to, and have found no information from the candidate that clarifies or gives me reason to believe that the political principles that will drive his use of power in office, will be ones that would make me comfortable with entrusting him with the power of that office.
To date his comments have been shallow and trite, directed towards vague issues, not principles, and I’m not yet convinced that he even understands what our side is, let alone how to lead or fight for it. I’m very much open to listening to further information from him, and I’m very willing, eager even, to be convinced by him. But so far he hasn’t found that to be very important to do. Instead, he has gone about the state on a ‘listening tour’, and sad to say, that sounds like just the sort of substanceless, image over substance, manipulative trick, that fits better on the Left – with Hillary Clinton for example – or with the establishment GOP, than over here on the Right.
And frankly I don’t want to have a candidate listening to me when they’re running for office – the only sound they need to hear from me would be my support or my vote – and the only way they’re going to get that is by telling me what his ideas and beliefs and principles are, so that I can make up my mind about whether or not I want to entrust him with my vote. He doesn’t need to listen, so much as to speak, debate, publish and otherwise let We The People know what it is that he thinks, feels and is driven by, that is relevant to the execution of the office of Governor of our state.
When I hear of his support for NGO’s, his words that express little more than shallow associations with politically easy ‘hot button’ issues, I’m not learning anything about the political principles that he, particularly in a moment of crisis, or with a simply tough and unpopular decision, is going to be guided by in making his decision.
Understand, I’m not worried about his character – that, as far as I can tell, is unimpeachable – I have no worries that he won’t do what he thinks is the right thing to do, my concern is that I don’t know what he thinks is Right!
That’s a problem for me, and to secure my vote I require his explanations, and demonstrations, of understanding those issues, and NOT simply the assurances of a flak who thinks he can peddle PR messages in lieu of a glaring lack of substance. Without proof from him, in his own words, and his visible ability to defend them, there is in terms of his political judgment, nothing there for me to support, only ‘inspired substitute substance‘ that is worth less than the HTML it’s written on.
When I come back to these posts, we’ll get into the ‘substance’ of Bills five part thirty-five page ‘defense’ of Greitens involvement in the Franklin Project, ‘Service’, and the ‘Serve America’ act he has so far attempted to ignore.