Mitt or Rick?

We’re now less than a week away from the Wisconsin Republican primary, and I’m still undecided. As it stands, this is more or less my current thought process: 
  • Romney & Santorum will probably be roughly equal on defense, abortion, taxes, marriage, judges, and immigration.
  • Romney will probably be somewhat better on spending/entitlements, though whether he’ll be aggressive enough remains questionable.
  • Santorum is right that he’d campaign much more effectively against ObamaCare (though I trust both to repeal it). ObamaCare and RomneyCare can be sufficiently distinguished to neutralize the issue for Mitt, but Romney himself needs to do it – and so far, he hasn’t.
  • Both candidates are gaffe-prone & have trouble refuting false narratives, though I’m unsure which will be a bigger liability: “Santorum as theocrat” or “Romney as corporate fatcat.” 
  • I fear Romney’s over-sensitivity to polls, but I also worry about Santorum’s “compassionate conservative” leanings.
I’m leaning towards Romney, but the great speech Santorum gave right here in Fond du Lac over the weekend – in which he showed undeniable passion and command of the issues, and made a strong case against Romney’s ability to campaign against ObamaCare – have stuck with me. Maybe in the next few days, one of them will do something magnificent – or idiotic – enough to make the choice clearer.

Hopefully the former. But I’ll take the latter at this point, too.

Thomas Sowell’s Tortured Logic on the Primary

Last week, Thomas Sowell issued another plea for conservatives to rally around Newt Gingrich. It was…questionable.
Rick Santorum has possibilities, but can he survive the media’s constant attempts to paint him as some kind of religious nut who would use the government to impose his views on others? And, if he can, will he also be able to go toe-to-toe with Obama in debates?

I would not bet the rent money on it. And what is at stake is far bigger than the rent money.
I have similar reservations about Santorum enabling the media to erect a false narrative about him that he won’t be able to overcome, but I think the debates have also shown that his policy chops and passion are more than adequate to mop the stage with Obama.
Mitt Romney is the kind of candidate that the Republican establishment has always looked for, a moderate who can appeal to independents. It doesn’t matter how many such candidates have turned out to be disasters on election night, going all the way back to Thomas E. Dewey in 1948.

Nor does it matter that the Republicans’ most successful candidate of the 20th century — Ronald Reagan, with two consecutive landslide victories at the polls — was nobody’s idea of a mushy moderate.

He stood for something. And he could explain what he stood for. These may sound like modest achievements, but they are very rare, especially among Republicans.
Yes, Reagan stood for something. Yes, there are real doubts about what Romney stands for. But it’s simply not true that Romney’s running as a moderate. He’s taken firm conservative stances on everything from taxes and entitlement reform to abortion and gay marriage to the border and Iran. While he might not make good on those promises once in office, the fact remains that he’s presenting as bold and uncompromising a contrast to Obama as any of the others. (And shouldn’t the “establishment”-baiting be beneath you, Mr. Sowell?)
Newt Gingrich is the only candidate still in the field who can clearly take on Barack Obama in one-on-one debate and cut through the Obama rhetoric and mystique with hard facts and plain logic.
True, Gingrich is easily the best debater in the field, and when he’s on his game, he can deliver almost Reaganesque levels of inspiration in his speeches. But there’s more to campaigning – and leading – than being good with words. Sowell seems to be betting that the general-election debates will be far more decisive than they’re actually likely to be.
Nor is this just a matter of having a gift of gab. Gingrich has a far deeper grasp of both the policies and the politics than the other Republican candidates.
Would that be the deep understanding of conservative politics that led Newt to back federal individual health insurance mandates, bailouts, federal stem-cell research funding, ethanol subsidies, “green conservatism,” Dede Scozzafava, amnesty for illegal immigrants, the creation and expansion of the Department of Education, the Bush prescription drug expansion, and the 1987 Pro-Fairness Doctrine, or to oppose Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform plan, or to flirt with Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Kerry, Al Sharpton, and Arne Duncan?
Does Gingrich have political “baggage”? More than you could carry on a commercial airliner.

Charges of opportunism have been among the most serious raised against the former Speaker of the House. But being President of the United States is the opportunity of a lifetime. If that doesn’t sober a man up, it is hard to imagine what would.
This is the line that was so maddening I had to write this post. It’s not even that Sowell’s hope of Gingrich sobering up is speculative; it’s that we don’t have to speculate on this point. Gingrich has been running for that opportunity of a lifetime, and it hasn’t sobered him up at all. Despite virtually all of the conservative movement fiercely condemning Gingrich’s dishonest attacks on Bain Capital, the man still has so little discipline that he couldn’t resist peppering his speech last night with derisive references to Wall Street. It hasn’t given him enough self-control to resist smearing Romney as a heartless bastard who starves Holocaust survivors – all the while lamenting how much he wishes he could stay positive. But I guess we’re supposed to just have faith that actually becoming president would sober Newt up, even though neither running for president nor being Speaker of the House seemed to do the trick.

Thomas Sowell is an excellent economist, and I doubt he would have much patience if one of his students used such shaky, evidence-free analysis in an economic paper. So why is it good enough for politics?

Rick Santorum Is Losing Me

In January, I enthusiastically endorsed Rick Santorum for President, having been convinced that he finally demonstrated the political acumen to complement his philosophical integrity. For a while, Santorum’s performance seemed to affirm my decision—he effortlessly assumed the role of adult in the room during the Florida CNN debate, and his strength in the polls remains far stronger than most would have predicted just a few months ago.

Unfortunately, a handful of incidents over the past two weeks have forced me to reconsider. First came his lackluster performance in the Arizona CNN debate, during which he rationalized his support of No Child Left Behind thusly:
I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sport, folks, and sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea. 
Voting against your own principles because your team leader wanted you to? That’s not only about as un-Tea Party as you can get, it also stands in stark contrast to Santorum’s own one-word description of his candidacy that very night: “courage.”

Next, Santorum came under fire for saying that John F. Kennedy’s famous Address to Protestant Ministers made him want to “throw up”:
I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.  The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. This is the First Amendment.  The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion.  That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square.  Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, “faith is not allowed in the public square.  I will keep it separate.” Go on and read the speech “I will have nothing to do with faith.  I won’t consult with people of faith.”  It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand as well as anyone the truth and importance of Santorum’s underlying point, that the Left has twisted the Establishment Clause to obscure and erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. We need a candidate and a president who will make that case to the American people. But we don’t need a candidate who makes it so easy for the Left to caricature that case. While some of JFK’s rhetoric could be interpreted as Santorum describes it, it’s hardly an obvious or indisputable inference—I suspect most Americans would read it as simply meaning he wouldn’t discriminate against Protestants or take his marching orders from the Vatican. What’s more, how much mileage do you think the Democrats will get out of ads which present Santorum as a wild-eyed theocrat who “wants to throw up” when he hears passages like:
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
Or:
I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
And most recently, he and Mitt Romney have been fighting over a robocall which asks Democrats to vote for Santorum in the Michigan primary. While Romney’s reaction is overblown and hypocritical, the fact remains that it contradicts Santorum’s own stated disdain for Democrats influencing Republican primaries, and its message was worse:
Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not gonna let Romney get away with it.
Not only is Santorum resorting to the very same class warfare he so admirably resisted not so long ago, but it raises the question: how can it be a “slap in the face” for Romney to oppose the auto bailout, but not for Santorum himself to do so? Attempting to give voters a false impression that you supported something you actually oppose isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring. (And for what it’s worth, one need not support either bailout to recognize substantive differences between them.)  

I’m not saying I won’t still vote for Rick Santorum in the Wisconsin primary. Many of his biggest assets—his unquestionable sincerity on social issues, his foreign policy expertise, and his relative purity on the crucial issue of government-run healthcare—remain unshakeable. Mitt Romney’s shortcomings (the latest example being this clumsy attempt to neutralize his wealth as a campaign issue) remain substantial. But I am saying I’m no longer certain he’s a stronger general election candidate than Romney, and so I must revert from identifying as a Santorum supporter to being undecided between Santorum and Romney.

Both men are far superior to Newt Gingrich (and Ron Paul, whose name shouldn’t even be spoken in the same breath as Gingrich’s). Both men have checkered pasts but are running on strong, unambiguous full-spectrum conservative platforms. Both men have denigrated themselves with petty, misleading infighting. Both men have displayed the capacity to change their tune for political expediency. Both men have shown promise in their ability to make the case against Barack Obama, but both men have also proven themselves to be disturbingly gaffe-prone.

I like and admire Rick Santorum. But I’m simply no longer confident enough in him to guarantee that he’ll get my primary vote. He and Mitt Romney have between now and April 3 to convince me they can get their act together and run a serious, focused, and reasonably caricature-proof campaign. May the best man win.

New at American Thinker – Health Care: The Straw That Should Break Newtmania’s Back

Of all the arguments against nominating Mitt Romney for president, perhaps the strongest is that his enactment of RomneyCare and his refusal to disavow it could neutralize the Republicans’ ability to run against Barack Obama’s own intensely unpopular health care plan.  If Romney is the GOP standard-bearer, expect Democrats to play up the similarities and common ancestry of the two plans, challenging Romney to explain why one is a bipartisan success story and the other is an intolerable threat to our way of life.  It’s certainly a concern Republican primary voters must take seriously.
But the idea that Newt Gingrich would be preferable on that score is about as unserious as it gets.  The former speaker may be talking tough now on how “you can’t make the difference” between RomneyCare and ObamaCare and boasting that “I can ask [Congress] to repeal ObamaCare because I haven’t passed something which resembles it,” but the truth is that Gingrich is every bit as compromised on health care as Romney is — perhaps even more so.
You wouldn’t know it from his bluster on the stump, but Gingrich endorsed RomneyCare in 2006.  Despite some criticism of the bill’s imperfections, he “agree[d] entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans” and, to that end, called RomneyCare “the most exciting development of the past few weeks,” with “tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.”
Read the rest at American Thinker.

For the Sake of the Conservative Movement, Romney Deragement Syndrome Has to Stop

The phenomenon of Romney Derangement Syndrome hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention during this election cycle, but it’s real. 
RedState.com has engaged in a smear campaign against Romney supporters and National Review for not being sufficiently anti-Mitt. Dan Riehl rants and raves about how conservatives should let Barack Obama win a second term if Romney is the nominee. Marco Rubio gives an awesome pro-life speech, and half the commenters at Hot Air can’t do anything but whine about Rubio being a phony because he’s too nice to Romney. Ann Coulter defends RomneyCare (in an admittedly flawed column that deserves a separate post), and Mark Levin can barely keep the contempt out of his ever-rising voice. Newt Gingrich engages in the most despicable distortions imaginable, and yet he’s still the victim in too many observers’ eyes. Jennifer Rubin is too sympathetic to Mitt for some, so she’s caricatured as a fraud and a joke.
People are whipping themselves into such a frenzy over Mitt Romney that they’re declaring friends enemies and deluding themselves into staying home on Election Day. (And many of them, incredibly, are doing it for a candidate who more effectively styles himself as a conservative, but substantively is no more conservative or outsider than Romney.)
Look, I get that Romney’s past is worrisome and his electability is problematic. I’m a Santorum guy. I get that the Republican Party needs to be taught a lesson. But now is not the time for an experiment in winning by losing. The stakes are too high.
The hope that a GOP defeat will finally shock the party into reforming itself is much, much too big an if to seriously weigh it against the damage Barack Obama would do in a second term. And I’m not even talking about the daily spending of money we don’t have, the continual erosion of liberty by unelected bureaucrats, or the burdensome regulations and tax increases (though all that alone would be enough to warrant replacing Obama with Romney).

Consider that his judicial appointments will further shape the American court system and shred the Constitution for decades beyond his presidency. Consider ObamaCare, most of which doesn’t take effect until 2013—if a new federal healthcare apparatus takes root, with brand-new entitlements Americans will be dependent on, it will be virtually impossible to dismantle. Consider that if the Left is allowed to import & regularize a permanent underclass through amnesty, before long these experts of voter fraud will have a brand-new pool of voters to ensure statist government for the rest of our lifetimes. Consider that an Obama who doesn’t have to worry about re-election will be more willing to consider any number of UN erosions of American sovereignty. Consider that Eric Holder will continue corrupting the Justice Department and persecuting states that try to crack down on vote fraud while allowing the fraud itself to go unpunished.

You mean to tell me stopping all that isn’t important enough to warrant holding your nose and voting for Mitt Romney? Really?

Besides, it hasn’t been that long since it was Mitt Romney who was the “conservative alternative” to John McCain (who we still managed to rally around), according to many of today’s RDS sufferers like Erick Erickson and Mark Levin, who told us that Romney shared our values and would uphold them in office. And as Ramesh Ponnuru writes:
He has not moved left since that time. His positions on policy questions are almost all the same as they were then. On a few issues he has moved right: He now favors a market-oriented reform to Medicare, for example. 
If Romney was to McCain’s right then, he is still. He’s to George W. Bush’s right, too. Bush never came out for the Medicare reform Romney has endorsed. Bush never said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, either. Romney has.
Romney’s platform is solidly conservative on fiscal, social, and defense issues. Serious conservatives like John Bolton, Maggie Gallagher, John Willke, Robert Bork, and Jay Sekulow vouch for him. Supporting him won’t require us to sell our souls, but merely to hold him accountable to his promises afterward we oust Obama. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a step up from everyone we’ve run since then – John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush.

Granted, maybe he’ll lose the election. Maybe he’ll be a disaster as president. I don’t know. But y’know what? Neither do Mark Levin, Michael Reagan, Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson, Jeffrey Lord, Dan Riehl, William Jacobson, John Hawkins, Thomas Sowell, Jeff Emanuel, or anyone else. Maybe he’ll destroy Obama and save the country from the brink of Armageddon. (And maybe, just maybe, the vote will be close enough that the RDS pouters like Riehl will be enough to cause Obama’s victory.) We simply won’t know unless we try.

Beyond 2012, this spectacle has revealed a deeper sickness within the conservative family. For all we’ve mocked liberals for the cult of personality they developed around Obama, too many of us have done the same. Too many (in most cases Perry and Gingrich backers) have rashly proclaimed their guy the Reaganite, the outsider, the true conservative savior, and therefore anyone not onboard (in most cases Romney backers) is either a pretender or a sellout, no matter how reasoned their argument or how genuine their past contributions to conservatism.

We shouldn’t be enemies. There’s no reason for us to be at each other’s throats. We’re all working to save our country, and we’re all just trying to weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of three fallible men. Coming to different conclusions than one another about that is no sin, and can’t be allowed to divide us during such a critical turning point in our nation’s history.

New at Live Action – Newt Gingrich Tries to Paint Mitt Romney as an Enemy of Catholic Hospitals

My latest Live Action post:

What many have decried as an unusually nasty campaign got even nastier earlier this week, as Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich accused rival Mitt Romney of being insensitive to religious liberty and conscience rights:

“You want a war on the Catholic Church by Obama? Guess what: Romney refused to allow Catholic hospitals to have conscience in their dealing with certain circumstances,” Gingrich said, apparently referring to the handling of emergency contraception in universal health care laws.

But HotAir.com provides more context, revealing that the truth is more complex. In 2005, Romney actually did just the opposite: he vetoed a bill that would have forced Massachusetts hospitals to offer abortive contraception:

[T]his particular bill does not require parental consent even for young teenagers. It disregards not only the seriousness of abortion but the importance of parental involvement and so would weaken a protection I am committed to uphold.

Read the rest at Live Action.

In Defense of National Review Against the Right’s Daily Kos

We’re currently witnessing the death throes of Rick Perry’s campaign. He finished fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and is currently polling fifth in South Carolina, where his fans have placed their hope for a turnaround. He’s in sixth in Florida, and fifth place nationally.

In a final, desperate search for something that can turn his fortunes around, Perry has decided to join Newt Gingrich’s leftist attack on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. It backfired. Badly.

Perry and Gingrich’s demagoguery has been fiercely condemned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, the American Spectator, National Review, Reason, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, Commentary, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer, Power Line’s John Hindraker, Ace of Spades, American Enterprise Institute, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, ex-Perry financial supporter Barry Wynn, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and PJ Media head Roger Simon, who very candidly apologized for having ever backed Perry, calling him “less qualified, it turns out, to be president than my dead grandmother.”

In other words, Rick Perry (and Newt Gingrich) has offended just about every corner of the Right—traditional and libertarian, moderate and hardcore, establishment and grassroots, commentator and activist, blogosphere and radio, Mitt fans, competitors, and haters alike.

Everyone, that is, except for RedState. Erick Erickson first said he didn’t mind the attacks (with Perry’s version “a bit more carefully nuanced” than Newt’s), then revised his argument to, yeah, but why did Romney support TARP? (Maybe for the same reason Perry did too, Erick?), and later wrote a post conceding the attack “has gotten out of hand”—while falsely claiming Bain got government bailouts and lying about what Perry’s critics were saying: “the sudden decision that it is verboten to level any attack at Romney because of Bain […] corporations should not be immune from criticism.”

The other front-pagers have rationalized the attack, mildly criticized it amidst teeth-gnashing about Romney’s general awfulness, and complained that it was distracting us from bashing Romney on healthcare. The strategy is simple: maintain the single-minded focus on taking down Romney at all costs, while discussing Perry as little as possible, refusing to give a moment’s consideration as to how Perry’s own words just might undermine RedState’s increasingly-hysterical insistence of Perry’s unique conservative authenticity. 

The shameless Perry-whoring is pathetic enough, but recently the site jumped the shark past “pathetic” straight to “obscene” with Thomas Crown’s attack on National Review. After assuring us what a good friend he is to everyone at NR, he tells the magazine “you have lost your way” for no discernible sin other than preferring Romney to Perry:

You have alienated yourself from your readership and your movement […] You have forgotten that one of the founding creeds of the modern conservative movement is A Choice, Not An Echo […] You are supposed to be a beacon of what is best in us, not a reminder that some days, you just can’t win […] It’s a shame, and we’re all poorer for it. We’ll miss you, and hope you come back to us some day.

Nearly 2,000 words, and yet Crown can’t squeeze in the most important part of any argument: the facts to substantiate his thesis. All he has is a handful of lazy mischaracterizations of both the candidates and NR’sWinnowing the Field” editorial:

Consider that in one fell swoop the publication managed to dismiss the longest-serving governor in the nation, with a record of conservative governance unmatched by any governor current or recent past [if you ignore the liberal parts of his governorship and his flip-flop record…oh, and how many of those Texas jobs went to illegals?], linking him unsubtly to a crank known for conspiracy theories and Ron Paul [nowhere in NR’s passage on Perry & Paul do the even remotely link the two, though since Crown raises the subject, Perry has praised Paul before]; praise Mitt Romney, who while apparently a model conservative (the sort who helps get abortion funding in state-run mandatory health insurance) [not true] has failed to seal the deal with conservatives for some unknowable reason; praise Jon Huntsman, whose entire campaign was a John Weaver special from tip to tail (this is not a compliment) [fair enough, but hypocritical: RedState’s had plenty of praise for Huntsman, too]; and praise Rick Santorum, one of the greatest (if dimmest) champions the pro-life movement has had, and who was so conservative he went to war for massive increases in federal spending almost every day, [that’s exaggerating a blemish on an otherwise-excellent conservative record] and whose greatest knock is not his loss to an anodyne nobody by a margin that made even the rest of 2006 look like a joke [also oversimplifying], but rather a lack of executive experience [Fair enough, but still hardly indicative of any problem at NR].

Crown’s fantasy of Perry support being some sort of conservative litmus test doesn’t hold up, and neither does the idea that National Review has sold out to Romney (a smear that RedState has peddled before). In fact, since Erick Erickson and Thomas Crown are so interested in which publications have put personality above principle, let’s do a little comparison:  

At National Review, I can read Ramesh Ponnuru endorse Mitt Romney and Kathryn Lopez vouch for his pro-life sincerity, but I can also read Michael Walsh argue he’s “plainly not” the “candidate the hour calls for” and Katrina Trinko report on jobs lost due to Romneycare. I can read the Editors disqualify Newt Gingrich from consideration, but I can also read Thomas Sowell endorse Gingrich (twice) and Jonah Goldberg credit him as “the only candidate to actually move government rightward.” I can read Shannen Coffin criticize Rick Perry’s Gardasil mandate, but I can also read Henry Miller and John Graham defend it, as well as Christian Schnieder defend Perry on in-state tuition for illegals. I can read Quin Hillyer defend Rick Santorum’s small-government credentials, but I can also read Michael Tanner and Jonathan Adler blast his “big government conservatism.”

Can I read substantive defenses of Mitt Romney, or substantive criticisms of Rick Perry, at RedState? Only from the occasional diarist who hasn’t been driven away by the thought police. From Erickson or the team writers? Don’t count on it. As John Scotus documents, Erickson’s been shilling for Perry since Day 1. The RedState narrative is that Perry’s the only candidate who “authentically represents smaller government,” “by far, the greatest alpha male conservative in a generation,” and supporting anyone else would be settling. The dark side of Perry’s record was almost completely ignored. Romney, however, is routinely characterized as the worst thing to happen to the GOP since John Wilkes Booth. Why, nominating him would kill conservatism! Perry critics and Romney sympathizers are routinely harassed. Erickson repeated Perry’s dishonest attacks on Romney over education and imposing Romneycare nationally, and even calls Romney a bad Mormon

National Review has an editorial leaning toward Romney; RedState toward Perry. There’s no shame in either, but while the former publication is a place where dissent thrives and every candidate is given equal fairness and scrutiny, the latter has dedicated itself fully to a biased image of their guy and their designated anti-Perry.

And yet, Thomas Crown has the nerve to lecture National Review about being unfair to candidates? RedState is the only major conservative venue not disgusted with Perry’s “vulture capitalism” smears, and yet National Review is the one somehow out of step with conservatism?

Which publication lost its way again?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the website that smeared Michelle Malkin for criticizing Rick Perry would conduct itself so dishonorably throughout this campaign. Until Eagle Publishing realizes how far one of their publications has fallen and replaces Erickson Erickson with someone committed to cleaning it up, whatever use RedState once was to the conservative movement will continue to be outweighed by the stench Erickson has allowed to permeate it.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with National Review.

Rick Santorum for President

In August, I wrote that I considered Rick Santorum the best potential president in the Republican field, but that his campaign just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I endorsed Michele Bachmann, who was just as conservative, a fighter, and (implausible as it seems now) had real traction. As Bachmann’s chronic foot-in-mouth disease proved terminal, I withdrew my support for her, but declined to pick someone else. I flirted with the idea of a conscience vote for Santorum in the Wisconsin primary, but overall had resigned myself to the likelihood that I’d end up voting for Mitt Romney again (who, for the record, I still prefer to Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry).
Well, I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Santorum surpassed expectations in Iowa this week, winning just eight votes fewer than Romney with far less money. And while an Iowa win is hardly determinative of how the rest of the campaign will pan out, and Santorum will certainly face an uphill battle, it was important for two reasons: it proved that his campaign organization is the real deal, and it forced lots of people to really look at Santorum for the first time. And this is what they saw:

An articulate, likeable figure who oozes confidence and conviction, and who displays a deep understanding of the challenges facing America and concrete ideas about how to solve them. A full-spectrum conservative with a record of credibility and leadership on economics, foreign policy, and social issues. A man who has lived his public convictions in his private life. A man of deep faith who isn’t afraid to oppose his faith’s leaders when they’re wrong. And a man whose record of success is better than you may have heard.
A perfect candidate? Not at all. But his mistakes are forgivable, and they pale in comparison to those of his competitors.
Santorum will still face a tough fight for the nomination, but hardly an unwinnable one. His team is efficient and effective. Rasmussen already has him in second place nationally. His newfound attention and momentum could very well translate to the financial boost he needs to compete on a larger scale. He’ll have talk radio giants like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck boosting him far earlier than the Right’s talkers took sides in the race last time around. Gingrich probably won’t be making many new friends. A Perry rebound is possible, but I doubt it. Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman aren’t even worth mentioning. I just don’t see where else those desperately seeking a more conservative candidate than Romney would logically go.
As for the general election, Santorum actually has arguably the best chance to defeat Barack Obama. His case against the incumbent will be bold and eloquent. The above video demonstrates his ability to naturally connect with working-class voters. No sex or corruption scandals will be dug up. All three legs of the conservative stool will be energized. The Left will deploy grotesque caricatures of Santorum’s moral views, but as long as his campaign refutes them promptly, visibly, and succinctly, they won’t work – being pro-life is a net political gain, and while things could change, it’s not for nothing that Obama still can’t bring himself to embrace gay marriage.
Ladies and gentlemen of the conservative movement, it’s been a long, frustrating, demoralizing haul, but there’s no need for pessimism anymore. We finally have our standard-bearer, and Barack Obama has met his match. Vote Rick Santorum for President.

How to Get Banned From RedState Without Breaking the Rules

Since July, I’ve maintained a diary on RedState.com. Unfortunately, that ended on Sunday, November 27, when moderator Neil Stevens banned me, blocking me from posting to, commenting on, and even viewing the site in my default browser. Here’s the transcript of the offending exchange:

buckedup: Let’s face it. There is no more perfect person currently alive in the world than Governor Perry.

Moe Lane: Posting here is a privilege, buckedup…not a right. Kindly grow up, which includes not pretending that you don’t know precisely what I’m talking about.

Calvin Freiburger: Clarification, Please. Which of RedState’s posting rules was Buckedup’s comment in violation of? http://www.redstate.com/posting-rules/

Moe Lane: Take it to the Contact Us link, Calvin Freiburger…if you have a problem or question about our moderation policy. And let me save time, because I’m traveling: my next (and likely continuing) response to your response to that will be “Take it to the Contact Us link if you have a problem or question about our moderation policy.” Because we’re not having a conversation.

Calvin Freiburger: The unwillingess of RedState personnel to answer very simple questions about their own conduct, and to do so publicly for the benefit of their audience, is deeply disturbing.

NightTwister: Funny, I didn’t see unwillingness. You were instructed to take it to the Contact Us link. The fact that they aren’t interested in this particular case to do it publicly is their prerogative. I mean, it is their private property, something conservatives hold dear.

Calvin Freiburger: Deferring all questions & criticism to the Contact Us link is a cop-out. There is no reason simple explanations for disconcerting conduct cannot be given publicly, especially when the concern in question — the vagueness of the criteria by which violations are being judged — is in the interest of the entire audience. Don’t RedState’s readers have a fair expectation that the site’s moderators will hold themselves to the site’s own stated rules? I completely agree that Erickson, Lane, etc. can run the website however they choose. And we have the right to judge them accordingly.

NightTwister: So you’re the judge of “fair” here? You really don’t get the private property thing, do you? I’m not surprised.

Calvin Freiburger: No more so or less so than everybody else. And “the private property thing” is a complete non sequitur to this conversation.

NightTwister: Should be “less so” in your case and mine. This isn’t a public site. This website is privately owned. That means the owners can make and enforce the rules however they like, and they are the final determiners of what is “fair”.

You may not like that, but nobody is forcing you to come here. As for your non sequitur, you prove my point. You don’t understand private property.

Calvin Freiburger: I’ve already acknowledged their right to run RS however they want. Someone’s right to use private property in a certain way doesn’t mean someone can’t or shouldn’t be criticized from behaving badly with their private property. If Streiff, Moe Lane, and company want to falsely accuse people of rule violations, that’s their right. But it’s also my right to notice whether or not doing so reflects badly on RedState and Eagle Publishing.

NightTwister: It’s not a “right” but it would appear for now that they are going to allow you to continue in your quest to right all the wrongs on the interwebz at RedState.

Bill S: Door’s to the right. Moe’s instructions were unambiguous. You obviously lack comprehension skills.

Calvin Freiburger: Do the powers-that-be at Eagle Publishing know this is what you consider an acceptable way to treat their publication’s readers? And before you once again violate your own site’s Posting Rules with another attack on my “comprehension skills” (“2. Namecalling and personal attacks directed at other users is not allowed.”), I’ll just point out that I already have emailed the Contact Us link. Bill S, I have never treated you, or anyone on this website, with dishonestly or unprovoked hostility. I don’t understand what grounds you have for considering me an enemy, other than the fact that I’ve expressed concern over the behavior of certain individuals, have objections to Rick Perry, and think some Romney supporters are being treated unfairly.

Neil Stevens: G’bye. You’ve repeatedly been warned to follow directions. You clearly can’t. I’ve had it.

Bill S: Have a nice life. Neil did me the favor of booting you so I didn’t have to bother with it. My observation about your comprehension skills was a pretty black and white one, given your repeated refusal to follow instructions. Either you didn’t comprehend or you just decided to act like a jackass. In either case, your banning was justified.

My interest in grilling the moderators was sparked after I observed a pattern of sleazy conduct by RedState’s moderators, primarily in the form of harassment against those who defend Mitt Romney or criticize Rick Perry (see below). I’ll be the first to admit I knew I was playing a dangerous game by openly calling the mods out on such behavior. But Stevens’ stated rationale for banning me—that I disobeyed repeated warnings to follow directions—is a lie.

First, RedState’s own Posting Rules say nothing that could possibly be construed as requiring commenters to stop discussing subjects simply because a moderator expresses a desire not to talk about it himself. If a website explicitly says, these are the rules you have to follow, users have a fair expectation that those are the rules they’ll be judged by, not by arbitrary whims. It’s meaningless to even have formal rules if RedState’s actual practice is to fabricate reasons for banning people on the spot.

Second, I was not “repeatedly warned” about my behavior. Not once did Stevens warn me in any way. The only “warning” Moe Lane suggested to me was that my replies to him would be a waste of time because he would answer them all the same way. At no point did he even imply that continuing to discuss my concerns publicly was itself a bannable offense. Bill S’s reply to me did not contain any such warning, either; he merely leveled a personal insult at me—that I “obviously lack comprehension skills”—for not silencing myself. Despite Bill’s decision to violate RedState’s stated Posting Rule against “personal attacks directed at other users,” I took great pains to not respond in kind while defending myself, expressing my offense at his behavior in a firm yet respectful manner that was not profane or vulgar, did not name-call, and did not personally attack. (The only other possible interpretation, that “NightTwister’s” jabs constituted some sort of binding warnings, would be too stupid to take seriously. He’s not a moderator, and I was responding fairly to his insults.)

Third, and most significantly, the comment Stevens banned me for couldn’t have violated any instruction to stop questioning Moe Lane, for the simple fact that it was not responding to Moe Lane. It was specifically responding to Bill’s unprovoked attack on me, and did not restate the question I posed to Lane. In fact, the only reference that comment made to my exchange with Lane was a perfectly innocent clarification that I followed Lane’s instruction to use the Contact page!

Simply put, Neil Stevens—whose signature, ironically, contains a call to “Read the RedState Posting Rules”—banned me not for breaking any of the rules, but for defending myself against his colleague’s rule-breaking.

I emailed RedState—both their general contact and Erick Erickson’s personal email—three times, explaining what had happened in perfectly respectful terms. Nobody responded. I also left a comment at Stevens’ own blog, which he refused to publish or address. I gave RedState ample opportunity to settle this civilly; they rejected that opportunity (and we know that Erickson reads his email), leaving me with no choice but to publicly call out the dishonesty, immaturity, and unprofessionalism of those running what is supposed to be an honorable, serious publication.

Here’s a sampling of the aforementioned unseemly conduct from site moderators:

  • “Streiff” admitted that he doesn’t follow RedState’s Posting Rules in banning Romney supporters, but that he’ll ban them “for disagreeing, for threadjacking, for asshattery, for having red hair, for whatever.” He has also endorsed the idea of banning all Romney supporters from the website.
  • “Streiff” responded to my last diary with a comment full of personal insults—“pretty stupid,” “salted with idiocy,” “Calvin Furburger’s lack of knowledge,” “When your world began only 22 years ago”—that didn’t even accurately critique anything I wrote. That article, by the way, got 84 comments, virtually all of them critical of me, including many overt personal attacks. Among my critics were three moderators—“Streiff,” Moe Lane, and Bill S—none of whom lifted a finger about any of the pro-Perry rule-breaking.
  • Responding to allegations that RedState discriminates against Romney supporters, Erick Erickson told Politico that those who were banned had smeared others as anti-Mormon bigots, which one of the banned commenters, pro-Romney blogger Phil Larsen, denies. I asked the moderators to direct us to the quote in which Larsen did what Erickson claimed. They couldn’t. Such a quote doesn’t appear in the thread where “Streiff” banned Larsen. What does appear, though, is “Streiff” calling Phil & his brother Ryan “buttboy,” as well as saying they, along with commenter “jackdaniels11,” have a “homoerotic attachment to Romney.”
  • Bill S said outright that Romney “groupies” “are not welcome” at RedState.
  • Neil Stevens childishly mocked a commenter who suggested RedState has an excessive anti-Romney bias, equating support for Romney with homosexual feelings—“Mitt Romney’s married. You shouldn’t lust after him like that”; “Don’t use that word [sucks]. It’ll just get him hot and bothered”; and “Coming out as a Romney fan is a traumatic thing.”
  • Stevens threatened to ban a commenter for promoting the anti-incumbent organization Get Out Of Our House. When another commenter asked, “It seems like a pretty boring site. Why the hard-core reaction?” Stevens responded: “Complaints to the contact page. Don’t like it? Tough.” When the commenter called Stevens out on being “mean,” he blew up: “Can you read? I said complaints to the contact page. If you continue to threadjack I will ban you. Don’t like that? Take it to the contact page. Or you can go make your own website and whine about how mean I was to you. I don’t care. Just don’t comment about it in this thread anymore.”
  • On top of all the pro-Perry misconduct and rule-breaking practiced and tolerated by RedState personnel, “Streiff” has incredibly claimed that the misbehavior of Romney fans—“nasty little jerks”—has been so overwhelming as to turn him against Romney. It’s almost as if he’s daring someone to notice his hypocrisy. Well, “Streiff,” I’m happy to oblige.

I did a little searching after my banning, and found that lots of people have had similar experiences. Granted, some of them are probably just vengeful leftists, but most? All?

Under Erick Erickson’s leadership, RedState has become dominated by a handful of unethical, unprofessional thugs, more interested in enforcing “correct” opinion and playing Internet jackboot than in doing their ostensible jobs. Hopefully, sooner or later someone at Eagle Publishing will realize that one of their publications is being run into the ground, and restore some self-respect to RedState. The last thing the Right needs is its own equivalent of the Daily Kos.

Romney Hits a Home Run on Marriage

Here’s one of the highlights of the most recent GOP debate, where Mitt Romney made a surprisingly strong case for the Federal Marriage Amendment. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it explained so clearly in so few words:  
I believe that the issue of marriage should be decided at the federal level. You might wonder, why is that? Why wouldn’t you just let each state make their own decision? And the reason is because people move from state to state, of course, in a society like ours, they have children, as they go to different states, if one state recognizes a marriage and another does not, what’s the right of that child? What kind of divorce proceeding potential would there be in a state that didn’t recognize the marriage in the first place? There are – marriage is a status, it’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state, and as a result, marriage status relationships should be constant across the country.