Another problem with pulling Reagan out of a hat is that it’s no longer “morning in America” – not with the economy in free fall. If one is a fiscal conservative, it’s more like twilight – but then, again, the neocons aren’t conservatives in any meaningful sense of the term. They are radical Jacobins [pdf], as professor Claes Ryn rightly calls them, whose hubris is the polar opposite of the conservative temperament. Yet Pletka and Donnelly have the gall to declare that “nothing less than a fight for the soul of conservatism is underway.” Well, yes, it is indeed, but the heirs of Arthur Vandenberg – and Scoop Jackson – have no valid claim to the conservative mantle, which is why they are losing.
The neocon mandarins of AEI are fighting a rearguard action against those “many young-gun conservatives” who are “from another school.” Yes, they are indeed from another school – they are Old School conservatives, who think the concept of “big government conservatism” is an oxymoron, and who aren’t fooled by the Pletka-Donnelly funny numbers which tell us “defense is not the source of the deficit.” Government spending is the source of the deficit, and of the economic crisis currently shaking our world – and military spending, including veterans’ benefits and the “defense” portion of the interest on the debt, accounts for 54 percent of all federal spending.
We can’t have an empire, and a balanced budget at the same time: it is one or the other. A return to fiscal sanity means we need real change in our foreign policy. That’s what the battle for the conservative soul is all about. The neocons are counting on their evaluation of the tea partiers as “Don’t Tread on Me nationalists” rather than “budget balancers,” but this calculation comes up short when one takes into consideration the central meme of the tea party movement: that it’s the federal government which is treading on us all and sucking the life blood out of the economy – while the Pletkas and Donnellys grow fat on corporate contributions and government contracts.
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