Friday, June 03, 2016

Today In Republican Detachment Disorder: Ramesh Ponnuru

(h/t Alert reader "Richard")

From today's Bloomberg View:

Conservatives' Message: Character Doesn't Matter

By  Ramesh Ponnuru

Once upon a time, we called it “the character issue.” It was a major part of the conservative attack on Bill Clinton in the 1990s: He was a draft-dodging adulterer and therefore unworthy of the office of the presidency.

Most conservatives are making a different judgment about Donald Trump. He too avoided the draft, and he has even bragged about affairs with married women. But conservatives are supporting him.

The second concerns our culture. Trump’s success in the presidential race so far reflects a cultural rot: It would once have been impossible for someone like him to win the nomination. But it also deepens that rot. If we elevate a man we know to be cruel, impulsive, insecure, vain and dishonest to the most powerful position in our country, that choice helps to define our own character and shape our expectations for one another...
Which is kinda weird considering that Mr. Ponnuru's 2013 assessment of the state of his Republican party was that it was dooming itself by continuing to put forward dull establishment candidates who would not speak to the real motivating fears and passions of the actual Republican base:
Republicans Lose Way by Misreading Bush History: Ramesh Ponnuru

That mythology influences the Republican presidential primaries, too. It’s why they have, to an unusual extent, showcased unpopular ideas that have no chance of going anywhere, such as abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency. It is part of the reason for the resistance to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: Conservatives fear he would be a big-government Republican, like Bush, and lead the party again to ruin.

Meanwhile, the real mistakes of the Bush years keep being made. Republicans had nothing to say about wage stagnation then and are saying nothing about it now. The real cost of Republicans’ fixation on ideological purity is that it distracts them from their real problems, and the nation’s.
Well congratulations, Mr. Ponnuru, you got your wish!  

You got a candidate who doesn't give a shit about orthodoxy, but instead speaks directly to the lizard-brain rage and fear that motivates your party's base.  He offers them the protection of walls, and the property of trade wars and they cheer him on.  He tells them that he will restore the middle class by the sheer force of his awesome will, and thanks to 20 year of Fox lobotomizing, they're plenty stupid enough to believe him.  He offers them scapegoats galore, both here and abroad, to blame for their every ache and pain, and tells the base that he will drive them out or destroy them once and for all, and they love him for it.  

You got your wish, Mr. Ponnuru, so what are you bitching about?

The problem, Mr. Ponnuru, is that while you have been richly rewarded for spinning you little stories and tinkering together your precious Conservative theories, you never bothered to look under the hood and see who was actually down there, at the base of your party, powering the whole enterprise.  You never bothered to leave your ivory tower and listen to what that mob of bigots and imbeciles was really saying, and there for had no idea what you were really wishing for and no capacity to recognize it now that it is leering back at you from the head of your party.

So it is no real surprise that Mr. Ponnuru has strapped on the Seven League Boots and taken a mighty leap right over the two decades between the Age of Clinton and the 2016 presidential election. Because it was during this period when it became painfully clear to anyone who was not an idiot or a fraud or a co-conspirator that Conservatives simply do not have principles.

They have a skull full of Frank Luntz-tested, Fox-approved, bumper stickers which are swapped out depending on which party --
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter." -- Republican Vice President Dick Cheney

"The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, Can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?" -- David Brooks
-- happens to be in the White House (typical teabagger rally during the reign of the Kenyan Usurper):

And what exactly was Mr. Ponnuru up to during this long, post-Clinton/pre-Trump interregnum about which so many Conservatives remain so conspicuously silent?

Funny you should ask!

When Mr. Ponnuru wasn't busy hacking out columns for The National Review, he was very energetically flogging his Regnery press best-seller, "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life".

And now he makes a living writes columns for Bloomberg decrying the coarsening of our public dialogue, the lowering of Conservative standards and the  "cultural rot" that has made it possible for a vulgar, lying demagogue like Donald Trump the win the Republican nomination in a landslide.

Funny old world.


Bob Risse said...

This whole argument lost me at "draft dodger."

dinthebeast said...

So I suppose that means he was a big supporter of a recent scandal-free, genuinely decent, centrist president with a broad base of support among the working class... Oh yeah, he's a Democrat, so he must be hated, scorned, and driven from office.

Trumpety turmpety Trump, dude, we tried to tell you more than once...

-Doug in Oakland

George Tafelski said...

Hey Drifty

Great post. As always. Thanks. I went to the link and read RP's bio and I was amused by the way they describe his book "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life".

"Ponnuru is the author of a book about the sanctity of life in American politics."

Bastard people, Drifty.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this. I have long puzzled at the notion that a dipshit whose most famous book literally calls the opposition party the "Party of Death" has a lifetime pass in the same "respectable conservative" circles as David f'ing Brooks and his ilk...

Of course, one could ask the same thing about David f'ing Brooks.


Hey...wait a minute...are *all* modern "conservative intellectuals" towering frauds?

Back to Mr. "Party of Death". The guy is a flim flam man on the order of Paul Ryan. One of those "reformicons" so lionized by the political media (including liberals who should fucking know better) as the bright future of a more inclusive GOP (HA!!!). But like the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver, Ponnuru is a total fucking fraud. His "reform conservatism" is the same braindead bullshit the Right has been shoveling out since St. Ronald of Reagan was talking about welfare queens, only in more sophisticated prose and with a de minimis working class tax credit folded in there somewhere so he can claim to be a "different kind of conservative" who cares about people other than heartless billionaire captains of industry, and be believed by his fellow Village cocktail circuit chuckleheads.

pdore said...

ain't it though

Professor Fate said...

"If we elevate a man we know to be cruel, impulsive, insecure, vain and dishonest to the most powerful position in our country, that choice helps to define our own character and shape our expectations for one another..."

Ah, sorry you have always been like this. To illustrate I quote one Hunter S. Thompson writing about one Richard Nixon:

“It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close."

The Modern GOP has always been a force for organized evil - they have just stopped using there inside voices which depresses the empty suit mouthpieces whose job it is to make Evil sound Not-Evil. I suspect they so upset by Trump because since he doesn't need or want his evil to be translated into soothing mush the empty suit mouthpieces have no real reason to exist. Or get paid which is far more important

John Taylor said...

No problem as Donald Trump has a great brain. Must be true, he wouldn't lie, right?

RUKidding said...

It's clear that Piyush, oops, Ramesh Ponnuru is struggling with his own "character issue." Someone who can write - presumably with a straight face - about the Democratic party being the party of "Death" and having disregard for human life really has some kind of stupid going on. Or he just enjoys being a lying son of bitch for the right kind of money.

Given that Mr. Ponnuru is of Indian extraction, it's pretty telling that he's all in favor of the monied elite v. the lower orders. Suggest Mr. Ponnuru go home for a visit and see how things are working out for the lower castes & untouchables there. We're certainly headed straight in that direction, but it's not because of the so-called Democratic party.

These wealthy and well connected pontificators certainly love to look down their snippy snobby noses at the rif-raf and declare as all drek to their vaunted all-knowing hoity-toity selves. Yet Mr. Ponnuru's favored party has dropped a big old Lincoln Log into the fetid shared melting pot of Team USA in the guise of one Mr. The Donald J. Trump.

Yet Pandit Ponnuru Sahib fussily waddles away, hastily wiping his hands whilst holding his nose against the stink. If only these barbarous Americans would learn what their indigent cousins were taught centuries ago in the Indian caste system: all the lower orders should back out of the room - lest their asses be in the faces of their economic and caste system betters, all with lowered head and eyes so as not to ever be considered equal to their lords and masters, who happened to win the Indian version of the sperm & egg lottery. And be ever so grateful for whatever crumbs and beatings were tossed their way and just STFU and get back to work.

Maybe Ponnuru Sahib can just go back home and scribble away for the broadsheets there. Oh, ooops, the subcontinent's denizens have awakened and are demanding better and more equal treatment these days, too. Too late! Too bad, so sad, get used to it Ponnuru.

Charlesdillon said...

Charley, is that you?

Richard said...

Your discussion of the "Closed Door Lie" today reminded me of Chris Mooney's explanation of what is happening in The Republican Brain. (pp. 26 - 41). It's a psychology process called Motivated Reasoning. (Wikipedia is shorter but less precise.)

It's all about

Cognitive dissonance reduction
Beliefs about others on whom one's own outcomes depend
Evaluation of evidence related to one's own outcomes

Decisions are made based on both rational and emotional bases, and when the cost of the decision is emotionally very high, your subconscious suppresses the facts that would let you make a rational decision. Your incompetent boss very probably is used to her employees disagreeing with her since she makes emotional decisions that others disagreeing with. She does not want to deal with more than one person disagreeing with her at a time so she deals with subordinates one at a time behind closed doors.

This is not conscious planning on her part. Most of every decision is made subconsciously because the conscious brain can only deal with five to seven major facts. The subconscious suppresses the less important facts on a pre-consciousness basis, and only the most important facts make it through the brain to the conscious decision you think you are making.

Chris Mooney describes a lot of this. It's an excellent book.

I like this explanation because it explains the appearance of hypocrisy on the part of the Republicans along with their belief that they are making rational decisions.

Republicans are especially subject to this process because it protects strongly held beliefs that otherwise would face severe challenges. Beliefs are held strongly or tentatively, in part because of intellectual training (strong religious vs Enlightenment scientific,in part the style of parenting used to raise the child (authoritarian vs authoritative) or possibly genetic. If a child is spanked for disagreeing with the parents, that is a symptom of authoritarian child raising style. Here in Texas our religious leaders often recommend authoritarian child raising. Ted Cruz is proud of spanking his children. Big city public schools no longer use corporal punishment.

This is a lot more than I originally planned to write. I rarely find an intelligent audience to discuss such things with, and I suspect you might be such a person.

bowtiejack said...

Thanks for the heads up on The Republican Brain. Just ordered my copy (check out
In the carefully gardened world in which we live (and the media operates) Trump can display every sign of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in spades and nobody will say it out loud. My guess is that psychology professors all over the country are saving clips of his rants for classroom illustration of typical symptoms.
Along the same lines, Samantha Bee did an epic takedown of evangelicals and the racism fronting as "religious rights".

Robt said...

What did anyone expect after the purging of those "liberals" from the media?

Still not sure why Bill Clinton did not foresee what his signature meant on the reform of the media fairness laws and consolidation of the media into few hands.

With all the ownership of media in the hands of profiteers. God and country are just controlling propaganda now.
With the 24/7 "news". filling the time becomes a quest for rating. to charge for advertising. This still leaves gads of empty time to fill. So they fill it with with what they feel they want us to hear every day every hour. Using Brooks, Gerson, De Souza, Glen Beck Bloody Bill. Distract and misinform the facts to leave empty spaces to fill, ( as Rush Limbaugh has always stated for 20 yrs), "Filling minds full of mush".
Enabling the every bigoted, greedy lamebrain ugly characteristic to improve the likes of a Teed Cruz or Donald Trump for president.
Exhibit #1
FOX and Friends; What does this show on a "24/7 news network provide? What news value to the public has it ever coughed up by accident?
It is not informing to help an electorate make the best decisions.
Not even to report on what is truly happening when a oil company as BP flows an offshore oil drilling operation with incompetence. More like how to limit responsibility in public opinion to limit responsibility of said company/ A media public opinion insurance. Paid in terms of advertising on said network.
All so self fulfilling for the nations wealth holders.
It is laughable when media folks talk about how they aren't tough on election candidates because they want access to that candidate.
But that candidate desperately requires the media to get out on the airwaves.

Maybe Trump should only go on FOX to speak to Americans. See how that works out for them. While the rest of the networks can report on the observations of Trump. Without interview. Without allowing blathering answers swerving into an abyss or using the moment to answer a question to blurt out obscenities of his foes.
Like all the accusations of president Obama spending $19 trillion in his first year. Big spending Democrat-liberal taking America into bankruptcy. When in fact he was operating on the Fiscal year of Bush's budget until October of said first year. Did the media ever point that out? Oh, they didn't have to.
If a whole lot of spending is going on. They never seem to point to Governments purse (the House of Representatives) Nor the senate for accountability.
Just too many in Congress to hold accountable?
We hear all this brain dead excuses of people gravitate to what they want to hear. I say they have been conditioned and propagandized in doing so.
Wait until FOX tell us it is monday and CNN reports the same day it is actually tuesday.
What network will win that report?
And by the way, }For all you children out there. Santa Claus is white".
FOX News Anchor.

Th prosecution rests (for the moment)

bowtiejack said...


My own little theory (which may be confirmed in the election post-mortems) is that Donald had one of his minions do an analysis of what the talk radio call-ins were bitching about and now is simply echoing all that back to them. Which is why they go crazy for it.

Eugene Burdick (co-author of The Ugly American) once wrote a novel called The 480 about a political campaign where one candidate's speeches didn't seem to have any consistent policy or themes but (like Trump's) only a scattershot of inconsistent points. But each of those "points" was designed to appeal to one of the identified 480 sub-groups of the electorate. People in each sub-group heard what they wanted to hear and ignored the rest to support "their man". Sure sounds like Donald's approach..

Robt said...


Your theory makes a lot of sense.

It goes along with the "echo chamber" . Fits right in .

R=wong radio host harps on air. A paid hack calls in and agrees in anger.

causing callers to "ditto".

Like the plant in an auction to bid up the price.

My hypothesis is that your theory is correct. It does not alter the ownership nor its propaganda.