But … but I thought greed was good!

by John Holbo on November 28, 2007

Kevin Drum responds to Matthew Yglesias, who is wondering why it took the social conservatives so long to come around to Huckabee, if this is what they wanted all along. Drum quotes the title of his review of Chait: “Forget neocons and theocons. It’s the money-cons who really run Bush’s Republican Party.” (I’m actually just about to get started reading The Big Con [amazon] myself.) If you want some confirming evidence for that thesis, check out this Robert Novak column, “The False Conservative”:

Who would respond to criticism from the Club for Growth by calling the conservative, free-market campaign organization the “Club for Greed”? That sounds like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, all Democrats preaching the class struggle. In fact, the rejoinder comes from Mike Huckabee, who has broken out of the pack of second-tier Republican presidential candidates to become a serious contender – definitely in Iowa and perhaps nationally.

Snip. (I’m skipping paragraphs but the whole thing is worth reading.)

As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has sought to counteract his reputation as a taxer by pressing for replacement of the income tax with a sales tax and has more recently signed the no-tax-increase pledge of Americans for Tax Reform. But Huckabee simply does not fit in normal boundaries of economic conservatism, as when he criticized President Bush’s veto of a Democratic expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Calling global warming a “moral issue” mandating “a biblical duty” to prevent climate change, he has endorsed the cap-and-trade system that is anathema to the free market.

Huckabee clearly departs from the mainstream of the conservative movement in his confusion of “growth” with “greed.” Such ad hominem attacks are part of his intuitive response to criticism from the Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute for his record as governor. On Fox News Sunday Nov. 18, he called the “tactics” of the Club for Growth “some of the most despicable in politics today. It’s why I love to call them the Club for Greed because they won’t tell you who gave their money.”

Novak goes on to add: “In fact, all contributors to the organization’s political action committee (which produces campaign ads) are publicly revealed, as are most donors financing issue ads.” I don’t know about that, but it’s rhetorical small change by this point in the column.

So there you have it folks: anyone who does not fit into the ‘normal boundaries of economic conservatism’ is a false conservative. Final line: “Mike Huckabee is getting enough favorable buzz that, when combined with his evangelical base, it makes real conservatives shudder.” Back to you Kevin: “Huckabee’s problem is that in the end, in today’s GOP, hating unions is more important than hating gays, and eliminating the estate tax is more important than eliminating abortion.”

{ 1 trackback }

Geoff Robinson » Blog Archive » 'Welfare' and politics
12.12.07 at 4:09 am



JP Stormcrow 11.28.07 at 3:54 am

Extremism in defense of greed is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of profit is no virtue.


abb1 11.28.07 at 8:43 am

So there you have it folks: anyone who does not fit into the ‘normal boundaries of economic conservatism’ is a false conservative.

Hey, pretty much the same is true in regards to the Democratic party: market liberalism uber alles, the rest is mostly for show. The DLC there is the equivalent of the Club for Growth; big business controls the government, both alternatives.

You’ve got to reject Michael Moore and the MoveOn crowd“. — — DLC CEO Al From

In the war against terror, it is vital that America be united. We have real enemies who seek to do us harm. Contrary to the conspiracy theories of Michael Moore and the loony left, Bush did not invent our enemies.” — — Marshall Wittmann.


John 11.28.07 at 10:14 am

A little off post perhaps but by far the best commentary of what American “culture” is really all about was the film of a few years ago called Beavis & Butthead Do America.

B & B, two totally self possessed amoral adolescents who trashed everything they came across and who were obsessed with stuffing things into their mouths and trying to screw anything that moved.

And by the way if you want to see what USA “culture” is really all about just turn on your TV set—thats it, nothing more whatsoever.

Brought to one and all by the oh so “conservative” corporations that fund the Heritage Foundation, the AEI etc etc and so on.


jonst 11.28.07 at 1:39 pm

I think Kevin is missing some vital and fundamental. And revolutionary, perhaps. The theocons HAVE become , to a some extent, the same thing as the money cons.


Cranky Observer 11.28.07 at 3:33 pm

I am not sure it is correct to conflate the moneycons and the group that manages the Republican party. But I suspect that both of those groups have zero interest in winning the Presidency in 2008; they just want to keep 41 Senators in their pockets and prepare for 2012 after a Democratic President has beated her/his brains out against the walls of Iraq and Cheney-induced governmental corruption. Then in comes the white horse…



robertdfeinman 11.28.07 at 4:18 pm

The group who has been running the economy for the past 40 years are ideologues. They have certain articles of faith such as that government spending is “bad”, taxes are “bad” and regulation is “bad”.

When reality intervenes there are two options. One can admit that one’s beliefs were wrong or one can claim that the needed policies weren’t carried out properly. Ideologues always chose the latter option. This is rooted in the psychological makeup of believers. So we are seeing a flood of books which explain how the present administration isn’t true to the real beliefs.

It’s the same dynamic that happens after we lose a war or international struggle. Someone had to be at fault for “losing” China or the Vietnam War, it couldn’t be that the idea of hegemony was wrong.

It’s never the ideas, it’s always the implementation. Finding scapegoats will make everything right again. One can see the same pattern when some televangelist is shown to be corrupt.

The Bushies will be thrown under the train and the movement will regroup under a new leader. The only question is when they will re-emerge.


Hidari 11.28.07 at 4:24 pm

‘A little off post perhaps but by far the best commentary of what American “culture” is really all about was the film of a few years ago called Beavis & Butthead Do America.’

If you thought B and B Do America was on-message, check out Idiocracy.

How that movie was treated by the studio is also instructive.


Thomas 11.28.07 at 5:04 pm

It shouldn’t be surprising that Novak believes that the “normal boundaries of economic conservatism” mark the normal boundaries of conservatism more generally. Novak opposed both wars in Iraq and most military interventions in between. Though he’s now a traditionalist Catholic, his political conservativism predates his conversion by decades and he’s never been thought of as any sort of culture warrior. Novak’s dissents from the “normal boundaries” of conservative views haven’t been sufficient for most (but see David Frum) to read Novak out of conservativism.

I think Novak’s mistake then is confusing necessary and sufficient conditions. Novak’s economic conservativism is sufficient for Novak to be deemed a conservative, but economic conservativism isn’t necessary for one to be so deemed.


mcd 11.28.07 at 6:23 pm

I think you’re confusing Robert Novak with Michael Novak.


abb1 11.28.07 at 6:28 pm

The group who has been running the economy for the past 40 years are ideologues.

See, I feel that exactly the opposite is true. Certainly in this case (the US in the past 40 years), but also in general. People who’re running things only care about money and power, and when necessary they’ll pay others to produce rationalizations, something that sounds like an ideology.


kharris 11.28.07 at 6:44 pm

The notion that cap-and-trade is anathema to free market thinking either makes use of a very old (original greek) definition of “anathema” or misunderstands where cap-and-trade stands in the range of pollution control schemes. Cap-and-trade, broadly understood, is the preferred approach of free market types among all pollution control schemes. It is only among those who oppose any effort to limit pollution that cap-and-trade is “anathema”. That trade part of cap-and-trade? That’s a market.


robertdfeinman 11.28.07 at 6:45 pm

I think I’ll accept your modification of my remarks, but with a slight change.

The word is “running”. You are correct that it has been the wealthy business interests who have been “running” things, as is always the case, but they are not the ones complaining about their ideals being betrayed.

It is the pundit class who are the ideologues and that’s whose outpourings we are discussing. So, I guess “running” was the wrong word, I should have said “enabling” or something similar.

I don’t know what Scaife, Coors or the Koch’s feel about the GOP currently, but they continue to fund their think tanks and these institutions are increasingly critical of the Bushies. Are Cato, Heritage, Hoover, etc. suddenly becoming intellectually independent of their sponsors or do they reflect a new viewpoint from those who are “running” things?


Bruce Webb 11.28.07 at 7:24 pm

Well that is why they call Novak the ‘Prince of Darkness’ and not ‘Mr. Subtle’. It is kind of like Cheney saying ‘Deficits don’t matter’ or on another level Bush referring to the US Constitution as ‘just a goddamn piece of paper’. Novak just let something out of the bag that was supposed to remain hidden from the Social and Fiscal Conservatives that supposedly define the Republican base.

In the final analysis these people (Bush/Cheney/Novak) simply don’t care about anything but their own self-interest. And this is not the product of someone with an advanced case of BDS (I plead guilty), instead a man very close to the center of power in this country simply opened the door and revealed a truth most of us believed all along.

These guys will skip church, screw around with other women, spend other people’s money like a sailor on shore leave, while not forgetting to keep a few dollars for themselves. And then try to preach social and fiscal conservatism on Sunday’s.

Novak essentially gave a huge ‘FU’ to the whole Religious Right coalition, right at the point that planet stewardship has begun to put pressure on Evangelical’s ability to restrict the message to abortion, guns and gays. Because most of the followers of the politicized Religious Right are not bad people. On the other hand I have exactly zero trouble with them sitting home on Election Day.

Bob may be so deep in the Beltway as to not know what harm he is causing his Party. To which I say ‘Good, keep ’em coming’


kid bitzer 11.28.07 at 7:39 pm

could i draw everyone’s attention to a slightly off-topic, but nevertheless pressing problem?

the proliferation of intelligent, reasonable bruces across the liberal blogosphere.

sure, this one says he is bruce webb. but he sounds just as intelligent and reasonable as bruce moomaw. or bruce baugh. and i can’t tell the damn bruces apart.

if any of them were offering to crack a tube, then i’d say it was a monty python send up of australian philosophers. ditto if they were making rude jokes about poms or poofs.

but instead, they’re all sophisticated, articulate, non-hysterical blog-commenters who always have good, worthwhile things to say.

it’s a fucking plague. a plague of bruces.


Thomas 11.28.07 at 7:57 pm

mcd, nope, I’ve got the right one. I think that if anyone is confused about Novak, it’s the intelligent and reasonable Bruce, who doesn’t seem to know much about Novak at all.


mds 11.28.07 at 9:08 pm

I think it’s pretty obvious that Robert Novak was strongly against the Iraq War. After all, he aided the White House in outing a covert CIA operative because her husband had dared to contradict part of the administration’s bullshit justification for invasion. And to his credit, he said the following on “Crossfire” on December 7, 2004:

More doom and gloom from the Democrats on Iraq. Devoid of any ideas, the party continues to seize on any piece of bad news and try to spin it against the Bush administration. But the president has his eye on the big picture.

Most Iraqis know the country is headed in the right direction, and so do most Americans, according to the polls. Only those Democrats determined to undermine the American mission there refuse to see this.

Yeah, if his criticisms of Iraq got any more scathing, he’d start choking on George W. Bush’s scrotum.

Yeah, he wrote a couple of columns against “nation building.” Good for him. But whenever the chips were down in policy arguments over Iraq, it was magically time to beat up on the naysayers. See also his hero, Chuck Hagel, who has spent years expressing “grave reservations” about the Iraq morass, while voting repeatedly to give the President everything he asked for.

On the other hand, at least he’s sticking the knife into a socially-conservative Southern Baptist Republican who’s running on a revenue-destroying flat tax as being insufficiently conservative, which is apparently a sign of his principles.


mds 11.28.07 at 9:12 pm

Ooh, I see preview blockquote and Post blockquote are excitingly different. Well, anything that increases confusion can’t be all bad.


Thomas 11.28.07 at 11:23 pm

mds, I do think it’s pretty obvious that Novak opposed the war. It’s been a consistent line, right from the beginning in 2002. The chips were down in 2002, weren’t they? I mean, that’s when Democrats and Republicans joined together to approve the war. Surely opposing the war then, when it was popular to support, counts. Calling political opportunists by the correct name doesn’t change his long-time opposition to the war and to similar military actions.

Huckabee is running on a consumption tax, btw, not a flat tax.


rea 11.29.07 at 1:09 am

Surely opposing the war then, when it was popular to support, counts.

I suppose if Hell opposed the war, you’d at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in a blog comment . . .


Bruce Webb 11.29.07 at 1:48 am

Kid Bitzer thanks. But Bruce Wilder who I generally call the ‘smarter Bruce W’ might well be knocking on your door here. He ain’t chopped liver and tends to get blamed for my screw ups.


mds 11.29.07 at 8:36 pm

Huckabee is running on a consumption tax, btw, not a flat tax.

His “Fair [sic] Tax” national sales tax has multiple marginal rates in it? I must have missed that. Admittedly, I was distracted by the ticker-tape parade actual antiwar activists gave Robert Novak for helping to out a covert CIA operative whose husband was critical of the administration’s justifications for war.

Comments on this entry are closed.