The Right Opinion

Happy New Year?

By Thomas Sowell · Jan. 1, 2013

The beginning of a new year is often a time to look forward and look back. The way the future looks, I prefer to look back – and depend on my advanced age to spare me from having to deal with too much of the future.

If there are any awards to be given to anyone for what they did in 2012, one of those rewards should be for prophecy, if only because prophecies that turn out to be right are so rare.

With that in mind, my choice for the prediction of the year award goes to Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal for his column of January 24, 2012 titled: “The GOP Deserves to Lose.”

Despite reciting a litany of reasons why President Obama deserved to be booted out of the White House, Stephens said, “Let's just say right now what voters will be saying in November, once Barack Obama has been re-elected: Republicans deserve to lose.”

To me, the Republican establishment is the 8th wonder of the world. How they can keep repeating the same mistakes for decades on end is beyond my ability to explain.

Bret Stephens said, back at the beginning of 2012, that Mitt Romney was one of the “hollow men,” and that voters “usually prefer the man who stands for something.”

Yet this is not just about Mitt Romney. He is only the latest in a long series of presidential candidates backed by a Republican establishment that seems convinced that ad hoc “moderation” is where it's at – no matter how many of their ad hoc moderates get beaten by even vulnerable, unknown or discredited Democrats.

Back in 1948, when the Democratic Party splintered into three parties, each one with its own competing presidential candidate, Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey was considered a shoo-in.

Best-selling author David Halberstam described what happened: “Dewey's chief campaign tactic was to make no mistakes, to offend no one. His major speeches, wrote the Louisville Courier Journal, could be boiled down 'to these historic four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. The future lies ahead…'”

Does this sound like a more recent Republican presidential candidate?

Meanwhile, President Harry Truman was on the attack in 1948, with speeches that had many people saying, “Give 'em hell, Harry.” He won, even with the Democrats' vote split three ways.

But, to this day, the Republican establishment still goes for pragmatic moderates who feed pablum to the public, instead of treating them like adults.

It is not just Republican presidential candidates who cannot be bothered to articulate a coherent argument, instead of ad hoc talking points. Have you yet heard House Speaker John Boehner take the time to spell out why Barack Obama's argument for taxing “millionaires and billionaires” is wrong?

It is not a complicated argument. Moreover, it is an argument that has been articulated many times in plain English by conservative talk show hosts and by others in print. It has nothing to do with being worried about the fate of millionaires or billionaires, who can undoubtedly take care of themselves.

What we all should be worried about are high tax rates driving American investments overseas, when there are millions of Americans who could use the jobs that those investments would create at home.

Yet Obama has been allowed to get away with the emotional argument that the rich can easily afford to pay more, as if that is the issue. But it will be the issue if no one says otherwise.

One of the recent sad reminders of the Republicans' tendency to leave even lies and smears unanswered was a television replay of an old interview with the late Judge Robert Bork, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was destroyed by character assassination.

Judge Bork said that he was advised not to answer Ted Kennedy's wild accusations because those false accusations would discredit themselves. That supposedly sophisticated advice cost the country one of the great legal minds of our time – and left us with a wavering Anthony Kennedy in his place on the Supreme Court.

Some people may take solace from the fact that there are some articulate Republicans like Marco Rubio who may come forward in 2016. But with Iran going nuclear and North Korea developing missiles that can hit California, it may be too late by then.

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13 Comments

G. Daylan in Peoria, IL said:

In the violent, aggressive game of football, a team that is leading often employs the “prevent defense.” This ploy changes the team’s nature from aggression to passivity and usually results in a loss. Likewise, when politicians (like those you mention) that appear to be in front of their opponent adopt a non-confrontational approach that also brings defeat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 2:33 AM

Jim D of Alabama in Daphne said:

Freedom fighters have been pinched between Republican snobs and Democrat mobs too long. America's favorite sport is still football. You don't see a lot of debates schduled for when a good game is on for good reason.
We need fighters plain and simple, not cautious pretenders. The best thing I take from this fine Sowell essay is the history of Harry Truman's victory. maybe we need a few more real contenders in the next race. A really conservative billionaire with a little fire in his belly would do nicely if the Republicans regurgitate another version of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 2:36 AM

Jim D of Alabama in Daphne said:

Prediction for 2013: The first killing on US soil by an armed drone.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 2:42 AM

Howard Last in Wyoming said:

Dr. Sowell a perfect explanation of what is wrong with the God Owful Party. Until actual Conservatives are put in leadership roles the party will come in a weak second. Boehner, McConnell and company are giving into the democraps on the budget right now. When will they recognize that bipartisanship means giving into the socialists. When was the last time you heard a so called Republican Leader (still an oxymoron) say Barry is a communist or where is the birth certificate or lets see the college transcripts. What they never said it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 3:06 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Former NYC mayor John Lindsay was a liberal Republican, who (1966-1973) gave away the Treasury- to Organized Labor, and contributed to the Fiscal Kliff of 1975! He lost all credibility with Conservatives. Lindsay "fed pablum to the public, and rarely treated citizens like ADULTS."Lilly-livered Lindsay is the definition of RINO-Republican in name only. TEA for 2013!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 6:58 AM

Alex in NJ said:

John Kerry, senator from Massachusetts, docks his seven million dollar boat in RI, to avoid excessive taxation.
Chuck Schumer, senator from NY, if true to his logic, would demand Kerry never again be allowed to bring his boat to Massachusetts.
These are the folks deciding what we can and can't do.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 11:21 AM

JJStryder in Realville said:

At this point we cannot count on the Republican party. Each of us in our own communities must fight this leviathan government whenever and wherever we can. My new years resolution is to personally take on every stupid liberal who thinks the whole world believes as he does. With logic and patience, I'm going to pull down their stupid rhetorical world. I'm going to school board meetings, town halls and supervisor meetings. It should be fun, I live in California.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

We don't have leaders in Congress anymore. We have politicians who are more concerned with getting reelected than doing what is right for the country. It must be something in the water in Pollution on the Potomac that quickly turns them into wimps. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Odumbo should have been hammered from the very first by the Republicans for all their scewups. Instead they keep trying to be nice and hope the voters will see through the Demorats agenda. They can't seem to get it through their heads that going on the offensive is the only way to counter the lies told by this adminsitration and the failure of the lamestream media to do any kiind of investigation of Odumbo's background or mistakes made by his adminsitration.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Honest Abe in North Carolina said:

The 2016 election (if there is one) may be decided by other forces, not the American voter. That is a prediction.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

We had story, after story, of free market success, but blind sheep just TUNED OUT SUCCESS! After 233 years of free markets and free people, blind sheep progressives wish to embrace a LYING NEO-MARX IST come lately----GO FRIGGIN' FIGURE!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 5:20 PM

p3orion in Midland, Georgia said:

The Republican Party seems to think that as long as they "play nice" that the media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) will think better of them and let them have their way now and then. This is folly, and they long ago should have learned better.

Ronald Reagan is often called "the Great Communicator," but I think it may have been less that he was great, but that he simply DID communicate. I could have torn my hair out during the debates when Romney, always the "nice guy" left unanswered some ridiculous assertion by obama. Reagan, on the other hand, was quite willing to publicly call the Soviet Union an "evil empire," to the horror of democrats and the universal admiration of people who value liberty.

Similarly, George W. Bush was never so popular as when he stood at ground zero and declared that those who were not with us in our fight against terrorism were against us.

Most of America (a voting majority, at least) are too busy or too stupid to understand policy questions, but they can tell when someone is too unsure of his own positions to defend them.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 10:21 AM

H. D. Schmidt in Loma Linda, Ca. said:

Excellent article by Sowell! However well said, America is on its death bed with no hope of survival, called: Socialism/Communism. Good luck Rubio if your party nominates you the next time around! And yet, Mr. Sowell has already in essence told you, that you cannot succeed given the fact, that most Republicans are not true Conservatives, per the USA Constitution, What kind of Conservative was George W. anyway when he ended up sending out checks so that the economy would not totally collapse? Using a Socialistic/Communistic tool to keep a so called Capitalistic economy from collapsing, give me a break! And with all this play with Socialism/Communism George W., ended up anyway handing to Obama the greatest American mess ever, right? As far as I can tell!

Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:30 PM

H. D. Schmidt in Loma Linda, Ca. said:

I fail to say in the previous comment that my man was none other than Ron Paul, who truly spoke truth, per the USA Constitution. By the way, I am also a legal, yes, a legal immigrant now going on 57 years, and my experience thus far has been, that most born Americans are very ignorant as to the Founding Fathers, with whom I soon fell in love with, coming from a country bedeviled with the evils of Socialism/Communism.

Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:36 PM