“If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. And if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no head.” – Winston Churchill

Like one of my blog buds, PalMD, I usually don’t discuss purely political issues on this blog. After all, I have my niche, and I’ve become quite good at blogging within that niche, if I do say so myself. Also, let’s face it: Political bloggers are a dime a dozen, by and large, while few do what I do, and I like it that way. Still, sometimes something happens that makes it impossible for me to help myself and I can’t resist. After all, anyone who blogs fancies himself or herself a pundit to at least some extent, and I’d be lying if I said I were somehow different.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to hang out with a very old friend of mine for the first time in nearly a decade. This is a guy whom I first met in fifth grade and who’s been my friend ever since. About 10 years ago, he accepted a job in Dallas, and, although I keep in touch by e-mail and the occasional phone call, I haven’t seen him since then. It turns out he was in town last week visiting family, and he gave me a call to see if I wanted to go out to dinner; so last Saturday night we met and headed out to a local pizza joint and later retired to my home to hang out a while.

One thing you need to know about my friend was that, as long as I can remember, he was very, very conservative politically. In college, he was a big fan of Ronald Reagan, except that he thought Reagan wasn’t conservative enough. Not surprisingly, this viewpoint was generally outside the mainstream of political thought on campus, particularly at the University of Michigan, which is not called “the Berkeley of the Midwest” for nothing. He did it all, though, joining the Republican Party and becoming active in the Young Republicans. He was incredibly soft spoken, but he was never apologetic and never backed down from a political argument.

I’ve alluded before to the fact that I used to be a lot more conservative politically than I am now. Even so, I was nowhere near as conservative as my friend. I never actually joined the Republican Party, although I usually voted Republican. (Well, I did once vote for John Glenn for Senate when I was living in Ohio, but he was about as Republican a Democrat you could imagine.) The other thing that might shock some readers of this blog is that I retained these political views until fairly recently. Indeed, I detested Bill Clinton and was happy when Newt Gingrich overthrew the old order in 1994.

What began the sea change in my politics was, as it was for so many, the invasion of Iraq. That may not be too surprising to my readers, but what shocked me was what happened when the topic of politics came up over pizza and beer last Saturday. That was when I heard something that I never thought I’d ever hear coming from my friend. That’s when I heard something that floored me so hard that I felt that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and close my gaping mouth.

That’s when I heard my friend tell me that he was planning on voting for Barack Obama.

It turns out that my friend, who had been more conservative than I for longer than I, had come to the same conclusion as I: That George W. Bush is the worst, the most incompetent President that either of us could remember and that the invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign policy fiasco in either of our lifetimes, and arguably in the last century. Indeed, he may have been even harsher on the whole misadventure than I was, pointing out how it’s bankrupted our nation, strained our Army and Marines to the breaking point, and diverted the attention of our military from where it should have been all along, namely Afghanistan, the nation from which al Qaeda had launched the 9/11 attacks against us. This war had resulted in the deaths of thousands of our best and bravest young people in the service of, it turns out in retrospect, doing Iran the biggest favor any nation has ever done for it, remembering that we both came of age during the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 1970s, and that was the crucible that forged our political orientation.

We also both lamented how budget surpluses had almost overnight turned to record deficits, thanks to the Republican Congress spending like drunken sailors, spurred on by Bush himself. We both lamented the cronyism, the unrelenting attack on civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, and the general incompetence of the whole operation. When I asked him, “Did you ever think that we’d hear our government arguing about the definition of ‘torture’ and whether what our nation was doing to prisoners constituted ‘torture’?” he just shook his head.

I ended up telling him that I hadn’t yet decided if I was voting for Obama yet simply because I was worried that he was too green and because his heart-on-sleeve religiosity disturbed me. On the other hand, McCain, whom I had quite liked in 2000, had turned his back on everything I liked about him eight years ago. In his lust to become President, he went from being a maverick to having his nose permanently imbedded in the posterior of the religious right.

As the evening wore on, and our conversation ranged among many topics, it always seemed to keep coming back to an expression of utter amazement. It was an expression of utter amazement that we both shared. We simply could not believe what had happened to both of us or how. We had both been so sure for so long in our political orientation. From being rather bemused at being so different when we were in college to maturing into adults, we had both been so firmly in the Republican camp for so long that before George W. Bush neither of us could imagine our ever changing. Neither of us could imagine not voting Republican. We Neither of us could imagine voting for an inexperienced, relatively liberal Democrat.

But, then, neither of us had ever encountered a Republican President as bad as our current President. It turns out that only one man was capable of changing us. Only one man was incompetent enough in office. Only one man could screw things up so badly that we had no choice but to change our deepest political tendencies.

Maybe Bush is good at something after all.


  1. #1 Jon
    August 8, 2008

    That quote at the top is actually misattributed to Winston Churchill, I believe.

  2. #2 Barbara
    August 8, 2008

    I’d be interested in your thoughts about so-called “universal healthcare”, or mandatory, government-run medical services. Thank you.

  3. #3 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 8, 2008

    The thing I see with my conservative friends that are voting for Obama is that Bush and the collective excusing of his actions by the GOP caused such disillusionment with the republicans that it forced a deeper look at their policies where before it was fall in line and support the party. Bush was the second coming for a while. He could do no wrong. He was likable, conservative (in voice at least), he championed socially conservative ideas and he was not affraid to take the fight to the enemy.

    Unfortunately it turned out that while the above was true he actually spent like teenager with their parent’s credit card, the conservative values he championed he did so at the cost of good science and progress, and the war he so easily got us into has turned out to not only be a quagmire but to be one of ultimately questionable motives and devastatingly horrible execution.

    If the second coming could be so utterly incompetent in essentially every facet of his administration what does that say about following the party line? This is what nearly all of my conservative friends tell me why they will be crossing party lines this election.

  4. #4 Ranson
    August 8, 2008

    I, too, made a serious political shift to the left after Iraq. It was the tipping point, although the disdain for science that the administration held was already making me wary. I argued with people for months online, because Iraq was just such a fundamentally bad idea (to put it lightly). Afghanistan was, I thought, the appropriate use of force at the appropriate time. Skipping from there to Iraq was just … insane. There was no evidence, no imminent threat (and at the time, I trusted Colin Powell on the WMDs; I just didn’t think that Iraq had the capability to be a real threat), and Afghanistan was a proven challenge to manage, given the Soviet experience, so we couldn’t really afford to split focus.

    I consider myself a centrist these days, but as the right keeps shifting farther right, I guess I end up more and more to left by default. I was a McCain fan in 2000, but now, I pretty much agree with your sentiments. If he was the man now that he was then, my vote would actually be a toss-up, rather than the sure-thing Obama that it is now.

    What’s the old quote? The only thing that could stop him now is to be found “in bed with a dead woman or a live boy”.

  5. #5 BAllanJ
    August 8, 2008

    Of course, it might have be that the credit should go to the VP.

  6. #6 NickG
    August 8, 2008

    Republican? As in… 9/10 disbelieve evolution, regressive taxes, no universal health insurance, roll-back Roe v. Wade (and while we’re at it, lets declare birth control pills abortion), anti-gay-marriage, bridge-to-nowhere, in the pocket of big pharma Medicare Part D bullshit, Patriot Act, Reading ‘My Pet Goat’ after all 4 of my pagers went off on 9/11, can’t say effing nuclear, series of tubes, veto expansion of SCHIP, drink the blood of puppies Republicans?

    Welcome to the light side. We have better cookies. 🙂

    Here is your first training video.

  7. #7 Mike
    August 8, 2008

    Political shifts come for many reasons. I know a few other former-Republicans who changed, almost all for that very reason. I think the idea that Bush might be the worse President ever is becoming more common. Even former followers now try to claim he’s not one of them.
    Also, I DESPISE that quote by Churchill. Almost the only time I ever see it is when right-wingers want to call you stupid for not being one, but want to use someone else’s words.

  8. #8 DrugMonkey
    August 8, 2008

    d00d, it is perfectly acceptable to think your party has been taken off the rails by a current regime, want to insert a ‘full stop’ by voting for the other guys and to still be a member of your party at heart.

    Let’s not make this more than it is, eh?

  9. #9 Confused
    August 8, 2008

    “Maybe Bush is good at something after all.”

    I’m curious about the details of this sentiment. You’re implying that the impetus for your move from right to left was a good thing. Firstly, have you truly moved from left to right, or do you just believe that regime change is the best course? (i.e. are you really hoping for a left-of-center goverment, or just a better right-of-center government?)

    Do you think your new outlook is the “right one”, and that you were misguided all along (as is implied to me by that line)? Or simply that you were closed minded about Republican candidate always being “the right choice”, and Bush has just made you think that you should vote for the right person, regardless of the party they stand for?

  10. #10 BB
    August 8, 2008

    You forgot to mention Bush’s stand on abortion, contraception, evolution, and global warming. Heck, his entire anti-science agenda is worth a blog by you as penance for voted for that dufus in 2000, assuming you did so.

  11. #11 JScarry
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t think that being repulsed by the current administration makes you less of a conservative. Over the past eight years the Republicans have repudiated the conservative principles that you hold. Unfortunately, the Democrats have been facilitators of the new Republican policies. Most Democrats voted for the war, increased spending, and the restriction of civil liberties–policies you’d think they’d be opposed to. I don’t think the Democrats have anything to be proud of in the past eight years either.

    People will vote for Obama for the same reason they voted for Carter–he was not around when the corruption of our federal government started. If we’re lucky, he’ll have learned from Carter’s mistakes and get us out of this mess.

  12. #12 Cain
    August 8, 2008

    I’d be interested in your thoughts about so-called “universal healthcare”, or mandatory, government-run medical services. Thank you.

    Just to be clear, Obama’s plan doesn’t call for universal health care, it calls for universal health insurance (and his isn’t really as universal as Hillary’s plan). These are different things. However, I would also like Orac’s opinion on Obama’s plan, as well as the gold standard for progressives, a single-payer system.

  13. #13 The ImposterCommenter
    August 8, 2008

    I have heard many in the older country-club set (65-75) say, “I am going to hold my nose and vote for Obama.” The argument goes that nothing in the Republican Party will change — essentially, the Republican candidate is McBush (McSame). The more enlightened agree with Warren Buffet that the tax breaks for the wealthy on the back of the middle class is insane and a real threat to democracy.

    A few have also expressed serious reservations about McCain’s health. Since they’re more or less his contemporary…

  14. #14 Dan
    August 8, 2008

    It turns out that my friend, who had been more conservative than I for longer than I, had come to the same conclusion as I: That George W. Bush is the worst, the most incompetent President that either of us could remember and that the invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign policy fiasco in either of our lifetimes, and arguably in the last century.

    Here here! He is the worst in my lifetime and we are probably the same age. What make it worse is that I voted for him the first time. Biggest mistake in my life. Go Obama. Should he win, he will be the first president who is younger then I am.

  15. #15 Ranson
    August 8, 2008

    I will say that my shift wasn’t very much a shift of mindset. It was more a lack of choice in youth, and the fact that the Dems seemed to be idiots when I came of age. I lived in a state where the Dem party was literally owned by the unions for decades. Hell, in some counties, you can not win an election running as a Republican. People who lost year after year with an (R) beside their name won in landslides when they switched parties. I rebelled against that in my heady youth.

    I was basically the type of Republican that you get when subtract out the “gay folk are bad, mmkay?”, and other religidiot aspects of the platform, because I haven’t bought into religion as a deep thing since before my first decade was completed. Add to that the fact I despise people who seemed to push a “nanny state” of censorship (one of the big reasons I disliked Al and Tipper). Basically, I preferred sound fiscal policy (which is where Bill Clinton tended to win me over, even if the Social Security numbers were fudged), reasonable maintenance of the military, decent research funding, and generally leaving people the hell alone, particularly when it came to their private lives.

    Can you see why I might have become disillusioned with the party of my youth?

    This is not to say that I have become a Democrat. Rather, since my wife and I now live in a state with open primaries, I am “unaffiliated”. That way, I can at least try to vote where it will do the most good.

  16. #16 Colugo
    August 8, 2008

    I find political conversion to be a fascinating phenomenon. It’s more interesting than religious conversion, since theology is all nonsense anyway, while politics is about policy in the real world.

    There are many, many examples of communists and far leftists turned fascist, and some in the other direction, but I don’t think moving from one kind of totalitarianism to another is as profound a shift as moving from say, Reaganite to social democrat or from Green to conservative libertarian.

    A lot of people converted rightward after 9/11 and then more converted leftward in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. (The Balloon Juice guy’s conversion is somewhat humorous since his catalyst was Terri Schiavo.) Some people hedged their bets and continuously shifted with geopolitical winds, first being pro-invasion, then anti as the resistance picked up, then pro again with the short-lived ‘Arab Spring’, and then redoubly anti as hopes for the region collapsed.

    Typically, political bloggers (I don’t have Orac in mind) don’t just change their minds, they change their friends and enemies. People they used to firmly agree with are now scoundrels and those they vehemently disagreed with are now champs. Can’t they just say they now see things differently? No, their onetime friends have to become lying bad guys and the now-rival party a bastion of lunacy, ignorance, and venality, whose appeal is best understood by referring to clinical psychology.

    Another thing is that catalytic events tend to cause converts to move in directions along the political spectrum as if it were all part of the same package. Few moderates in the wake of 9/11 became left wing anti-jihadists, Hitchens-style militant atheists who believe in a progressive domestic agenda and an aggressive foreign policy dedicated to wiping out Islamic radicalism. They just went rightward. Nor did many moderates, anguishing over Iraq, become Pat Buchanan-esque isolationist paleoconservatives. No, they just moved leftward. Why didn’t you and your friend become paleos, Orac?

  17. #17 S. Rivlin
    August 8, 2008

    I wouldn’t worry about Orac’s move to the left. This is just a natural shift that comes with age and commonsense. As long as the Republicans were not twicking with our freedoms, as long as they were not threatening the many liberal social achievements of the Democrats that all of us are enjoying and not willing to give up, we could afford to play the conservative game of free market with no governmental regulations. But now, when our social freedoms are being taken away by a Republican administration-went-amok, when Bush and Cheany get rich, while our fixed incomes are shrinking, when we are the loughing stock of the free world and corruption among our representatives in congress is the rule, it is time to discard the infantile ideologies of the religiously-infected conservatives and become socially responsible democrats.

  18. #18 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    “Most Democrats voted for the war, increased spending, and the restriction of civil liberties–policies you’d think they’d be opposed to. I don’t think the Democrats have anything to be proud of in the past eight years either.”

    Most of the Democrats who didn’t toe the presidential line were tarred as traitors and lost reelection. Some conservative and/or Republican factions have invested quite a lot of money and time in propaganda over the last seven years or so.

  19. #19 Evinfuilt
    August 8, 2008

    When you look at Katrina you see the damage done not by Bush, but by 30 years of Republican thought.

    I believe the problem wasn’t that Bush was such a poor Republican, but that he was too good at dismantling the Government (make it so small you can drown it in a bathtub.)

    I do agree, that he went against the Republican “statements” about less spending and “smaller” government. BUT… that was never the goal, that was simply the pitch. Under Bush the Republicans finally got the chance to out-source the Government to business and it was more expensive (not a surprise to them.)

    In the 90s I thought the Republicans were the party of small gov, of freedom, but even back then you could see what they said and what they did were 2 different things. I left the party well before Bush got in. I’m unsurpised that under Bush’s rule they became the party that fought civil liberty (after all they spent all of the 90s fighting the ACLU which made no sense if they were for liberty and freedom.)

  20. #20 wintermute
    August 8, 2008

    That quote at the top is actually misattributed to Winston Churchill, I believe.

    Not least because Churchill was a conservative at 20 and a liberal at 40.

  21. #21 Kemist
    August 8, 2008

    I’ve experienced a similar shift in the last few months, along with many people in canada (though you might consider our right center-left ;)). The conservative wave was there, and it, combined with a corruption scandal among the liberal, made a bunch of us vote Steven Harper.

    heeaargh. Disaster. They mangled science funding. Success rates fell from 85% to 15%. My institute is now dead, and the vultures are fighting for the carcass. Professors are leaving science. My professor is so starved for grad students he now considers applicants with a 2.3 GPA. I’m depressed every time I go there, seeing it so empty.

    They reneged on Kyoto. They increased ethanol production and contributed to the present wheat & rice crisis.

    And you know the worse thing ? *We’ve got nothing else*. The present liberal candidate is a running gag, as his own *party* won’t even listen to him. He has about as much leadership as a cactus plant. And, all these things the conservatives did, they did with a minority govnt. Just imagine what they’ll do with a majority.

    Now we’ve got a similar govnt at state level. The level that controls our health care & education pograms. Already they have made their intentions clear as to education (they proposed to increase college tuition by *three times* the amount, eeeiishhh). They also have shown an interest in privatising our health care. They are just waiting to have a positive shift in public opinion to propose the laws. To make sure the shift happens, they make sure people complain on very long waiting lists.

    I don’t really think things are taking a turn for the better up here either.

  22. #22 idahogie
    August 8, 2008

    I grew up in a conservative, military family, and basically had a Republican leaning by default. The change for me happened during the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings. I saw lying, deceitful behavior on the part of the GOP, and cowardly, smarmy behavior on the part of the Dems.

    So I decided to become a liberal.

  23. #23 Tony P
    August 8, 2008

    There’s conservative and then there’s neo-conservative. You and your friend are of a different breed than what the Republican party represents today.

    The big problem with our government is we allowed it to be hijacked not by religious fundamentalists, but by big business interests.

    McCain in his early days gave me great hope that we might reform congress and the political system in this country. But that went nowhere.

    As to myself, I’ve always been very liberal. But I don understand the problems with government, particularly at the federal level but also at the state level too.

  24. #24 John H.
    August 8, 2008

    For someone who has voted for more Republicans than Democrats in his lifetime (we’re talking about me, here) and yet still professes to be a progressive/liberal …

    I rather liked McCain back in 2000 before Bush drove him out. I believe now that he’s not the change we need. Obama is it. Where previously I would have argued “how much damage can a bad president do?” I now know the folly of that position. Not gonna do it.

    Frankly, Bush should be impeached for the sake of the country, and our constitution. Sadly, I know it will never be done. And don’t bring up Clinton, either. He was an idiot and just should have said “I f*cked her. So what? Blow me.” The outcome couldn’t have been any worse.

    Arguably, it might have made Al Gore’s candidacy stronger, and who knows where that might have led …?

  25. #25 TTT
    August 8, 2008

    Mike: Also, I DESPISE that quote by Churchill. Almost the only time I ever see it is when right-wingers want to call you stupid for not being one, but want to use someone else’s words

    I totally agree. Nowadays when people try to browbeat me by simply invoking that Churchill fortune cookie, I respond that Churchill was in fact SO conservative that he chose not to direct any bombs onto the train tracks leading to Auschwitz for fear it would waste materials.

  26. #26 Jennifer Ouellette
    August 8, 2008

    I cling to the “Independent” label because I really don’t like this black-and-white separation, or our limited two-party system. It promotes blind ideology and needless rifts, cf. the last 8 years. I’m socially very liberal/progessive, financially more of a moderate conservative, and reserve the right to embrace views that lie anywhere in between on any given issue. Mostly, I’m less concerned with liberal (progressive) or conservative, and who falls where on the political spectrum, and more concerned about what’s the best way to run a country. In Dubya, we have a living example of exactly what NOT to do in every single area. The level of incompetence is breathtaking.

    I like your point about the current mess forcing died-in-the-wool, party-line Republicans to stop and look more closely at the actual policies of their chosen party. I suspect you’re right, and this is indeed happening. I have several conservative Republican friends who are revolted by the current Administration and not at all happy with McCain as a candidate — those people include religious conservatives, ironically. 🙂

  27. #27 Bob
    August 8, 2008

    Remember, there is a spectrum of conservatism in this country – economic, big business, limited government, social, religious, neo-con, etc.

    I consider myself an Ingersoll Republican, partly because it’s easier than saying economic conservative/social libertarian, and partly as a testament to the powers of historical revisionism that has redacted Robert Ingersoll from popular memory.

    For the longest time I would not consider voting for a Democrat. My family lived in the Chicago ‘burbs from ’70 to ’76 and the Daley machine would put anyone off Democrats for a good long time. Bush showed how bad an administration could be, especially for someone who remembers the abuses of the past – Democrat and Republican – but with no Thomas Nast or Woodward & Bernstein to bring the criminals to justice.

    The political realization came from asking myself what I valued, beyond the labels. Stuff like competent management, fiscal responsibility, respect for the individual, caritas, limited government. And on reflection, the party that had best demonstrated those qualities over the past quarter-century had been the Democrats. In contrast, the Republicans had been screeching about their abhorrent little jihads against women, gays, and anyone else who wasn’t a pinchy-faced fundamentalist WASP. And that was before Bush was installed and showed just what damage an alcoholic ne’er-do-well frat boy and his chunky Machiavellian sidekick could do.

    Read some of the works of Robert Ingersoll and despair at how far the once-progressive party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has fallen (the ancient audio recordings of Teddy defending giving Standard Oil ‘the Abyssinian treatment’ are classic.)

    Perhaps like Standard Oil, the current Republican Party is in desperate need of the Abyssinian treatment. If they can’t see the need, the rest of us certainly can.

  28. #28 D. C. Sessions
    August 8, 2008

    Well, I’ll be voting against McCain for the simple reason that as an Arizona resident I’ve had more occasion than the rest of you to get to know him.

    As for the larger picture, I might accept arguments for Iraq, but not for the full-out assault on civil liberties. Unfortunately, there really aren’t any heroes on that front, since all sectors of the Federal Government have cooperated (House, Senate, Republican, Democrat, Courts, pretty much all marching in unison to “protect” us.)

  29. #29 Mindy
    August 8, 2008

    Did that friend have bright red hair?

    You could have just paid attention to your sister, all this time.

  30. #30 BA
    August 8, 2008

    I’m surprised that the Republican war on science was not a bigger factor in swaying your opinion. It has tipped me from independent to progressive.

  31. #31 IBY
    August 8, 2008

    Hey, that was really interesting. I guess only utter disasters are able to change opinions of people so drastically.

  32. #32 DrNO
    August 8, 2008

    I have said many times in the past…”I didnt leave the republican party IT left me”
    1-20-09 it has to get better after that!

  33. #33 jre
    August 8, 2008

    The “liberal-20-heart-conservative-40-brain” trope seems to have been around for some time. Mark Shirey found it attributed to at least eight different writers and politicians, from Bismarck to Wilson. The earliest version, cited by Ralph Keyes in Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations (1992), is attributed to François Guizot (1787-1874):

    Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart;
    to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.

    Of course, “republican” to Guizot probably meant roughly the opposite of what it means to us.

  34. #34 Green Eagle
    August 8, 2008

    “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. And if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no greed.”

  35. #35 jre
    August 8, 2008

    Oh, and while we’re talking about republicans, and what ever happened to them, let me not miss an opportunity to cite the peerless John Rogers’ Best. Post. Ever. on the subject.

  36. #36 Julie Stahlhut
    August 8, 2008

    For what it’s worth, loathing a politician from your own party of record isn’t necessarily a conversion experience. Sometimes it’s just recognizing crap for what it is.

    I’m as left-liberal as you can get, and I’ve voted for Republicans on a few occasions; notably for William Weld over John Silber in the Massachusetts gubernatorial election of 1990. Weld was a more or less centrist Republican with a basically libertarian viewpoint; Silber was an arrogant blowhard who had done everything in his power to bully, humiliate, and muzzle the faculty and students at Boston University during his years as president, who made campaign speeches that openly promised more of the same on a larger scale, and who frankly didn’t seem to give a damn which party he belonged to as long as he had the opportunity to bloviate in public. Since neither Weld’s nor Silber’s political orientation actually matched mine, I voted for the guy I thought would be more likely to use his brain when necessary.

  37. #37 SLC
    August 8, 2008

    Re Tony P

    I would have to partially disagree with Mr. Tony P here. Rethuglicans have always favored big business. What’s new is the enlistment of the religious right and the stoking of the culture wars in order to turn out the born again voters. In many states, the born agains have hijacked the Rethuglican party. I suspect that Mr. conservative himself, Barry Goldwater, would have been appalled at what has happened to the movement he began.

    As an example, in Virginia, former governor Gilmore, as conservative as one can get, was strongly challenged in the Rethuglican convention convened to pick a senatorial candidate to replace Senator Warner, and barely defeated his born again opponent, a total whackjob named William Marshall who disgraces the state by his presence in the General Assembly.

  38. #38 Neil B
    August 8, 2008

    First, that “Churchill” quote is bogus, I get from the sites etc. that check that.

    About the current R candidate: McCain has shown he is desperately dishonest, not just by hiring a Rove-ite but through his recent energy price ad smears against Barack Obama. McShame was dishonest enough to put out an ad implying that people like BHO were responsible for the high gas prices today. Well, first that’s hypocrisy because McCain opposed OSD for years until recently too. Mr. Fake Talk Express has implied that he, McCain, was always for off-shore drilling – But McCain just changed his mind several weeks ago, only a few weeks before Obama.

    Second, it’s a lie because the core reason for the recent oil price rise is rising consumption – we and citizens of other countries are responsible for our own gluttonous appetites, not environmentalists. If we’d followed the advice of the latter, such as strict CAFE standards opposed by Repiglicans, the price of gas would be maybe a dollar lower not the few cents someday from OSD.

    *Tires: Didn’t Obama explain that the savings from properly inflated tires was maybe a bit more than what we’d get from OSD?*

    (BTW – let’s allow some off-shore drilling but only *on condition* that the oil from such wells *must* be used directly in the USA! – See how they like them apples …)

    This explains a lot: I found out from a piece in The New Yorker that McCain used to be called “punk” in his youth. Then he marries the narcotics-stealing woman he had an affair with – see, Republican family values as the icing for his partisan hackery. The S**t-talk Express.

  39. #39 Feynmaniac
    August 8, 2008

    “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. And if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no head.”

    So you and your friend have neither heart nor head? 😉

    If any good is to come from the Bush years it’s to show Americans what direction they should quite clearly avoid.

  40. #40 Michele
    August 8, 2008

    I’m like Jennifer – I prefer to think of myself as “Independent.” I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal/progressive (although the Republicans have racked up the largest deficits). I used to think of myself as more conservative but when Conservatives began embracing the religious right, I became more liberal.

    I grew up in a Republican family – my father always votes Republican and my brother is also a staunch Republican (I don’t know about my mother but suspect that she votes as my father tells her to). Unfortunately, I don’t think Iraq or McCain’s politics will change their minds.

  41. #41 Mike
    August 8, 2008

    I don’t think your political orientation has changed at all, Orac. It’s the Republican Party that changed.

  42. #42 Der Bruno Stroszek
    August 8, 2008

    I really wish I had a provocative and stimulating contribution to this debate, but I just wanted to say that the above piece is the most moving and powerful piece of political writing I’ve read in ages. Kudos.

    Er… don’t you hate pants?

  43. #43 Natalie
    August 8, 2008

    Am I the only person who finds cutesy puns like “Rethuglican” and “Obamanation” obnoxious?

  44. #44 The Christian Cynic
    August 8, 2008

    No, Natalie, you’re not, although I wouldn’t call them “cutesy puns” so much since they aren’t so much “cutesy” (and I’m too much a fan of puns to call them that).

  45. #45 MH
    August 8, 2008

    Am I the only person who finds cutesy puns like “Rethuglican” and “Obamanation” obnoxious?

    Yes you are, Nutterlie.


    Great post, Orac.

  46. #46 Rogue Epidemiologist
    August 8, 2008

    “I don’t think your political orientation has changed at all, Orac. It’s the Republican Party that changed.”
    Posted by: Mike

    So totally THIS.

    I hate EVERYBODY in politics right now and nobody’s representing my interests one lick! argh.

  47. #47 Eric
    August 8, 2008

    Orac: “On the other hand, McCain, whom I had quite liked in 2000, had turned his back on everything I liked about him eight years ago. In his lust to become President, he went from being a maverick to having his nose permanently imbedded in the posterior of the religious right.”

    Amen! In 2000, I did something I had never done previously: I contributed money to a political campaign. McCain shook up the establishment and I, being the rebel I’ll always be, proudly supported his campaign, despite my general Democrat leanings. Imagine my disappointment when Bush slimed his way to the nomination.

    Obama has his faults to be sure, but these attempts at a “whisper campaign” are distasteful at best. For one thing, HE’S NOT A EFFING MUSLIM! Then again, as an atheist, I couldn’t care less about his religious positions. All I care about is can he be a good president?

    Finally, all this fuss about is name resembling “Osama” and his middle name of Hussein. As if Obama had any choice in the matter. HE WAS A BABY WHEN HE WAS NAMED!! And Hussein might as well be as common as Smith. Who gives a shit anyway? Since when did the presidential requirements hinge on a person’s name???

    This election season is far too concerned with splitting hairs than with actual politics and positions. Let’s focus on what’s important.

  48. #48 fongooly
    August 8, 2008

    Is it splitting hairs to hope that Obama could get his wife to have dental reconstruction before the election?

  49. #49 HarryEagar
    August 8, 2008

    While I agree that Bush is an ignorant, incompetent fool, he’s also the only man in history to have overthrown a bestial genocidal murderer, had him haled into court, tried under law and hanged.

    Not a bad legacy.

    If it were me, I’d rather be known for that than what Reagan, Bush I or Clinton will be remembered for, which will be . . . well, uh, . . . I can’t think of anything they’ll be remembered for.

  50. #50 Samantha Vimes
    August 9, 2008

    My parents are both over retirement age and were Republicans. War in Iraq and government-approved torture have sickened my parents on the party. This isn’t what they stood for. I’m pretty sure my mom’s voting Obama and my father will probably be torn between a protest vote for a non-candidate (he writes in some interesting names some years) or voting Democrat.

    Also, it’s not unusual for people to trend more liberal as they get older. They have more time to research points of view outside their normal social circle. They have more life experience and see people who they would not see as lazy, shiftless, etc, thrown on the social safety net by bad luck. Things that might have sounded ‘scary’ at one point– such as gay marriage– begin to sound like the only reasonable way to treat those nice men who share the house down the street.

  51. #51 Dale
    August 9, 2008

    “Bush was the second coming for a while. He could do no wrong.”

    That is so sad. I knew he was an incompetent buffoon from the start. How could 95% of Republicans not see that?

    As for disillusionment, I remember listening to some right-wing radio show in 2004, and there were these two religious nut anti-abortionist types talking about how Bush had said he was anti-abortion but he hadn’t done anything about it. One of them said something like “Do you think he pulled the wool over our eyes?” The other one said that yes, probably he had. They were both on the verge of tears, they had believed so much in George.

    So naive, so pitiful.

    But there will be Obamaniacs feeling the same way after 4 years of Obama, too. Right wing blowhards and left wing fanatics both claim he talks like a Liberal, but really he’s pragmatic.

  52. #52 wolfwalker
    August 9, 2008

    I can understand why moderate/conservative people, especially small-government, fiscal-conservative people, would be unhappy with Bush. I’m unhappy with him on those areas myself.

    What I don’t understand is how any thinking human being could believe that Obama will be any better in those areas than Bush is.

  53. #53 Kerry Maxwell
    August 9, 2008

    While I agree that Bush is an ignorant, incompetent fool, he’s also the only man in history to have overthrown a bestial genocidal murderer, had him haled into court, tried under law and hanged.

    Not a bad legacy.

    Have you actually watched the hanging of Saddam? Would you be proud to count that as part of your legacy? You may be confusing notorious with notable.

  54. #54 Sid Schwab
    August 9, 2008

    john McCain is a modern miracle: he managed to brand himself as a straight-talker and get the press to buy into it, when it was at no point true. And because of his war record he somehow is above reproach: he promised a respectful campaign based on the issues, and has resorted to distortion and lies, debasing himself and us all. What’s worse, though, is that it appears that even in these times, when our future is literally at stake — energy, climate, staggering debt — that sort of politics still works. It’s not hyperbole in my mind to say that if he wins, given his embrace of wholly discredited economic philosophy and foreign policy, and given his style of dishonest campaigning, that we are literally beyond hope. If the problems don’t cause the electorate to demand the sort of change in the body politic that is so clearly needed, then there is truly no hope. Because by the time the electorate might wise up (if ever) it will be too late to solve anything.

    On many levels the opening ceremony of the Olympics showed where the center of geopolitical gravity now is; in fact, maybe there’s still some hope. The US won’t wise up until it’s too late. But maybe China or India or some other nation will produce the people that will find the solutions for us all. While we fritter away opportunity, degrading science, deriding inquiry, dumbing down everything.

  55. #55 Tony
    August 10, 2008

    No surprise at all. Bush is no conservative.

  56. #56 Thomas
    August 10, 2008

    If one were to study American history, the increase in executive power has been a steadily rising curve since the birth of the Republic. Anybody avaricious enough to want to be president is not to be trusted. Pick any party you like, even the independent ones. That is why the best government is the government that rules least, not the one with the best or biggest army and police.

    Obama won’t make anything better or worse, he’ll just be another spike or dip in the same curve with the same trend. Maybe if he wins you’ll get a black person on currency some day. That’s about as much difference as he’d make.

  57. #57 HarryEagar
    August 10, 2008

    I’d be pleased and proud.

  58. #58 marcia
    August 10, 2008

    If I’m right, the planet will be here quite a bit longer than I will. By spending even a few hours outside a week (something apparently children rarely do any more), along with educating myself on planetary issues, I couldn’t help but conclude these issues are far more important than any other if we care about other species and the next generations of humans.

    To that end, all one has to do is go to the League of Conervation Voters web site and compare Republicans to Democrats.

    It simply and clearly confirms that Republicans care far less than Democrats about these issues.

    I’m not alone on this issue:

    56 percent of Americans give a negative rating to “the condition of the natural environment in the world today.” And environmentalism remains a political plus: People by 42 percent to 6 percent say they’d be more likely, rather than less likely, to support a candidate who’s a strong environmentalist, similar to the gap on this question in a 1999 poll.


    BTW, McCain has a 0% score for 2007 (despite what he has said about being a Republican who cares).

  59. #59 Dr. X
    August 10, 2008

    “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. And if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no head.” Winston Churchill

    And if, at 60, you’re a committed conservative or a die hard liberal you don’t have a heart or a head. — Dr. X

  60. #60 ttch
    August 10, 2008

    Regarding the so-called Churchill quote, see Wikiquote.

  61. #61 ttch
    August 10, 2008

    That’s Wikiquote.

  62. #62 Jud
    August 10, 2008

    Years ago, I attended the deposition of an accountant – a young partner in a major firm – who’d been the lead partner in auditing a bank that failed not long after the audit was done. The management of the bank had run circles around the poor kid, who had given the bank a clean bill of health while never receiving the supporting information from the bank that the firm’s auditing procedures manual called for.

    At the time the audit was done, no U.S. bank had failed for decades, so the assignment wasn’t given to the young man because of any special competence. It was given precisely because it was thought impossible that the bank would have problems, and the audit would allow the likable young man to meet and golf with bank management, who were some of the big financial movers and shakers in those parts, and this would therefore be very good for the accounting firm’s future business.

    Now substitute the Bush Administration for the accounting firm’s management, and folks like Mike Brown (FEMA head during Katrina) and the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq during the early occupation, for the young accountant. What the Bush Administration considered impossible wasn’t the failure of a bank (though of course some are failing now), but the failure of free-market capitalism. Free-market capitalism was going to turn Iraq into such a paradise that Al Qaeda and any other opposition to the American Way would look too ridiculous to garner support. This free-market paradise would be so self-evidently wonderful that it would virtually run itself. Thus the thought in staffing the Coalition Provisional Authority wasn’t to find people with special competence, but rather to find the likable young folks who could use the inevitable success as a springboard to get ahead. For example, the fellow who was head of the office that was supposed to get new Iraqi businesses going indicated on his application for the position that his favorite previous work experience was driving an ice cream truck.

    Mike Brown’s major previous work experience, prior to becoming head of FEMA, the federal agency in charge of disaster response, was running horse shows. Suddenly this doesn’t seem like an anomaly, does it? And you’ll find the same thing all through the Administration, from the people in charge of rebuilding Iraq to those in charge of staffing the Justice Department. Competence was thought to be unnecessary – the True Religion of free-market capitalism would take care of everything.

  63. #63 Paul Murray
    August 11, 2008

    “We simply could not believe what had happened to both of us or how.”

    It simple: your politics have not changed, it’s just that the crazies took over the Republican party. What you belive, politically, is not the same thing as some particular organisation.

  64. #64 Darwin's Minion
    August 11, 2008

    “While I agree that Bush is an ignorant, incompetent fool, he’s also the only man in history to have overthrown a bestial genocidal murderer, had him haled into court, tried under law and hanged.”

    And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why having some actual knowledge of history is very, very important. It saves you from making an utter fool of yourself. In public.

  65. #65 Phoenix Woman
    August 11, 2008

    Darwin’s Minion: Yeah, it’s as if the Nuremberg Trials never happened. Then again, the righties have spent the past few decades using dodgy data to try and claim that Mao and Stalin each killed more people than Hitler — because of course somebody who kills 20,000,001 persons is just so much more evil than somebody who “only” kills 20,000,000.

    That quote at the top is actually misattributed to Winston Churchill, I believe.

    Not least because Churchill was a conservative at 20 and a liberal at 40.

    It’s originally from that old empire-builder, Vicar-of-Bray emulator, and Conservative politician Benjamin Disraeli. Like so many conservatives throughout the centuries, he started out liberal as a way to be what we would now call “cool” and a “babe magnet”, but then dropped liberalism in order to get ahead. (See also: O’Rourke, P.J. and Coleman, Norm.)

  66. #67 Roman Werpachowski
    August 11, 2008

    Bush is the president who ushered the end of the USA as a global superpower. Look at Georgia now. What influence can the the USA exert on Russia? None. In 1980 the USA stopped Brezhnev from invading Poland, a country solidly in the Soviet sphere of influence. Now they can’t protect their protege state.

  67. #68 Harry Eagar
    August 11, 2008

    Hitler was hanged after a trial at Nuremburg? Who knew?

  68. #69 Lorax
    August 11, 2008

    Hitler was hanged after a trial at Nuremburg? Who knew?

    Harry, your Rovian attempt to put words into Phoenix Woman’s mouth are disgusting. I would like to think you didn’t read what she wrote clearly, but my guess is you were looking for some knee-jerk snaky reaction to score 25 rethuglican points. Its arguments like yours that make me detest the republican party en masse. They will stop at nothing to disparage, nice to see the minions have learned so well.

  69. #70 DiscomBob
    August 11, 2008

    I’m tempted to deride many of you as Monday morning quarterbacks, deriding decisions made based on information not available at the time the decisions were made, I realize it is human nature to do so and would have the effect of a sparrow fart in a windstorm.
    Bush is a ding-dong on many issues, especially those that invoke any kind of religious argument for or against, but it seems all politicians pander to religion to some extent, the big O no exception. It just goes to show that religion (biggest. woo. ever.)does not belong in government, as the founding fathers knew.
    That said the biggest threat to the U.S. and western style civilization IS religion, namely radical Islam (and perhaps the not-so-radical Islam also). Bush could fight it better, but he does fight it. Will the dems? Don’t know but I’m not confident. Will the repub’s? Almost without a doubt, if only because they care so much about religion. I’ll take the Christians over the Muslims for now, thank you, while extolling the virtues of no religion in government.

    (my attack of late in the day semi-coherence is now over)

  70. #71 cupcakes
    August 11, 2008

    The great thing about Bush is that he really brought the conservative ideals to fruitation, and you are all having your nose rubbed in it every day. No amount of denial and authority worship can hide that nasty open sore, and it is causing you to reconsider, and for once, think about how government runs rather than being a slobbering mindless cheer leader.


  71. #72 Roman Werpachowski
    August 12, 2008

    “That said the biggest threat to the U.S. and western style civilization IS religion, namely radical Islam (and perhaps the not-so-radical Islam also)”


  72. #73 DiscomBob
    August 12, 2008


    Yo’ mama

  73. #74 HarryEagar
    August 12, 2008

    So, Lorax, it’s your contention that Stalin and/or Mao didn’t kill more people than the Germans? That claims to the contrary are ‘dodgy’?

    Or that Bill Clinton ‘presided’ over an economic expansion. Waved his hands and said, ‘Let there be jobs!’ I suppose.

    I’ll bet that Phoenix woman cannot, without going to Wikipedia, name the highest ranking Nazi hanged after a Nuremburg trial. All the big cheeses cheated the hangman.

    But if you think that describing Bush as incompetent and ignorant scored me ‘rethuglican points,’ you’re as illiterate as Phoenix woman is ignorant of history.

  74. #75 wackyvorlon
    August 14, 2008

    I think Bush may very well be remembered as the worst president the United States has ever had. He has presided over it’s descent into fascism, and the bankrupting of it’s economy.

  75. #76 hinschelwood
    August 14, 2008

    Harry, you really haven’t understood the point, have you? I’m not sure if this is because you are stupid or because you are a stupid troll.

  76. #77 HarryEagar
    August 14, 2008

    Somebody doesn’t know what fascism is.

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