Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dealing with the Devil of Pragmatism

Today's column:

Pat Robertson's recent endorsement of Rudy Giuliani has me wondering if conservatives have learned anything from the Bush years. Politics, it is said, is the art of compromise, but it is prudent to be careful about how far we take that compromise. Certain issues are—or should be—nonnegotiable; and no advancement can be made on any issues which have been compromised. Just what Robertson hopes to get out of a Giuliani presidency is utterly beyond me. As I have done so before, I hesitate to list the litany of sins of America's mayor; suffice it to say that, by any stretch of the imagination, Rudy is neither a conservative, nor a good man. Yes, he supports the War, as do many conservatives, but this actually proves the point. Wars increase the size of the Government, and aggressive wars are immoral; like Rudy, they are neither good, nor conservative in nature.

It is high time for conservatives to reexamine their priorities, and ask themselves important questions. How important is the War on Terror—the War on Iraq being a component thereof? Is a politician who holds otherwise impeccable conservative credentials worthy of support, or is the War so important that it it worth supporting a man whose views are diametrically opposed to traditional conservative ideas—so long as he is Tough on Terror?

Socrates famously intoned that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. If I may modify his maxim slightly: the unexamined policy is not worth holding. Still basking in the horrors of 9/11 some six years after the event, many republicans have failed to examine the policy which has been hoisted upon them and their party by the nefarious neocons. For if radical Islam is a threat to the American way of life—I don't believe it is—the President has certainly chosen a bizarre way to fight it. An open border, a war on a country that wasn't a threat to us, barbaric methods of torture for dubious ends, and the suspension of civil liberties at home, are high prices to pay in our war against global extremism. Worse, these methodologies are almost wholly ineffective—though they do serve to increase the size of the federal Government.

Staunch republicans who are still unconvinced of the folly of interventionism, should note that supporting pseudo-conservatives can backfire tremendously. It wasn't so long ago that conservatives were assisting Arnold Schwarzenegger in his quest to become Governor of the state of California. Britain's telegraph now places the Governator eighth in a list of influential liberals. Far from marking an indication of a transformation, this is the inevitable result of electing a wolf in sheep's clothing. In a column beseeching conservatives to refrain from supporting Arnold, Vox Day presciently observed: “Pragmatism in politics is self-defeating in the long run. It is a euphemism for the slow sacrifice of one's principles. The constant substitution of "electable" moderates for principled conservatives is what repeatedly kills the Republican Party and prevents it from ever realizing even a small part of its platform when it is in power.” With Rudy, we'll be faced with “deja-vu all over again”, to quote the sage, Yogi Berra.

I'm with Pat Buchanan: “Rudy offers the right the ultimate Faustian bargain: retention of power at the price of one's soul”. It is deeply tragic that a religious conservative like Robertson would be the first to trade his soul for political power. The tragedy is compounded since attainment of power has demonstrated itself to be all but useless when it requires the abdication of one's principles. My knowledge is inexact, but I believe it was St. Thomas Becket who, before his martyrdom, quoted Christ: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” Beckett then asked his executioners why they would make such a sacrifice for paltry Canterbury. Conservatives need to ask themselves if they, like Robertson, would sell their souls for a senseless shot at four more years of the presidency.

UPDATE: The Saint was Thomas More, and it was Wales, not Canterbury. My apologies. Even Chesterton wasn't this loose with his references.

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