Commentary

Good news, with a splash of bad

on

There was much good news, along with a splash of bad news, in this week’s controversial poll from NBC-Wall Street Journal. Whatever the poll’s methodological shortcomings (which we will leave to the trained professionals to sort out), it’s clear that the first-tier candidates are holding firm as “candidates you could see yourself supporting,” even as second-tier figures Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson are beginning to surge. As we have been saying in this space for some time, all of the GOP candidates are accretive. They all bring elements of support to what could be a winning coalition against Hillary. A bloodbath may break out later – the major media can hardly wait — but for now it’s all good.

The bad news is that Rand Paul is slipping. Voters who could see themselves supporting him dropped from 59 percent in April to 49 percent in June. That drop-off was easily predictable, of course. The rise of ISIS has kneecapped Paul’s campaign. It’s impossible to talk calmly about trimming defense budgets when Islamic fanatics are beheading Christians.

Paul’s sagging numbers are bad news — and not just for his own supporters. His is the clarion voice for smaller government. We all need that voice, whomever we are currently supporting . . . Which reminds us of Wheeler’s Law, named for the late libertarian-conservative Tim Wheeler, who once observed that “the way to get rid of corruption in high places is to get rid of the high places.” Wheeler, my colleague for many years at National Review, was a genius at compacting Constitutional wisdom.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Mad Max foreign policy prescriptions scare me a little, but he got off the best line of the campaign last week when he told voters at a New Hampshire candidate forum, “We’ve tried tall, good-looking and charismatic before. Let’s not go down that road again.”

Welcome Bobby Jindal to the race. He’s a remarkable young man – still only 44 after eight years in the Governor’s mansion. It’s hard to see where he can find pedaling room in the GOP peloton, but we can’t get enough of his blistering riff against “hyphenated Americans.” Sing it again, Bobby.

I make it my business to get around to see the candidates in various venues – set speech, Q&A, presser, private chat when I can get a few minutes. Much of any campaign’s output is rote rhetoric, some of it eye-glazing in the extreme. (Invite me over to the house and, with the slightest encouragement, I’ll recite Scott Walker’s chestnut about shirt-shopping at Kohl’s.) But what redeems the seat-miles of the campaign trail is the chance to track the trajectory of a candidate. Is he or she connecting with the audience? Is he or she sharpening the argument and enhancing the appeal? Or is he or she running on fumes and beginning to go through the motions?  Faithful readers will remember that I was plugging Carly Fiorina on this site last winter. On the stump, ol’ Carly can really bring it. But as Spring turns to Summer, who’s hot now? You won’t hear this elsewhere but, in my judgment, the candidate who is improving at the most impressive rate is Rick Perry. The next time you have a chance to see him in person, grab it, and let me know if you agree.

As you listen to the programmatic parts of each candidate’s stump speech, keep handy the timeless insight of journalist-sage, H. L. Mencken: “Elections are futures markets in government favors.” That is, be forewarned: there’s always the chance that a candidate, once elected, will do what he promised to do.

Conservative wise man Jameson Campaigne responds to our piece last week about DC’s ravenous lobby culture this way: “The problem is larger than merely ‘wishing the New Deal away.’ Take, for example, the ‘ownership’ of House Republicans by the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors. How do we exterminate Fannie and HUD when our people are propping them up?” Good question, Jameson. Just thinking out loud here, but perhaps we should change some of our people.

Amazing, isn’t it, what can happen when human beings respond to a community tragedy without benefit of counsel from Al Sharpton? Those stouthearted parishioners of Emanuel African ME Church in Charleston taught us all how to behave in the face of evil. God bless. We needed the reminder that, on occasion, the most powerful force in human affairs can be not hate but love.

The Decline of Western Civilization, June edition. NBC has named Brian Williams principal news anchor for MSNBC. Really? Couldn’t they find somebody in the news division who’s not a confirmed liar? It’s a news division, right?

We close this week with a resounding “well done” to a great conservative recently departed. On Memorial Day, fittingly, we lost the one and only R. Randolph Richardson. A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, a steadfast ally who never went wobbly during even the chilliest days of the Cold War, a man who almost single-handedly incubated the supply-side revolution before it took off as Reaganomics, Randy Richardson was a plain-speaking, far-seeing, BS-penetrating American patriot. You hear talk about people “making a difference.” For Randy, it was about making quantum change. Again and again.

About Neal B. Freeman

Neal B. Freeman is a member of the Board of Directors of The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He serves as the Chairman of The Blackwell Corporation, an advisory firm with clients in the communications, defense and wealth management businesses. The company was founded by Mr. Freeman in 1981. Mr. Freeman’s articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, Washingtonian, National Review, International Economy and other publications. Additionally, he was long associated with the late William F. Buckley Jr. in various publishing, broadcasting and political ventures. Mr. Freeman received his BA magna cum laude from Yale University.

Recommended for you

Comments