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‘Are You Liberal Or Are You Conservative?’

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‘Are You Liberal Or Are You Conservative?’

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz waves as he arrives to speak at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

About 20 years ago, when the syndicate that represents this column was preparing to pitch it to newspaper editors, I was called in for a meeting with the sales staff and somebody asked me this question:

“Are you liberal or are you conservative?”

I said, “Yes.”

I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy. OK, maybe a little. But I was also trying to convey my impatience with our bipolar political discourse, with the idea that I was required to pick a team. I was trying to preserve for myself the right to think a thing through and come to my own conclusion regardless of ideological branding.

But at the same time, I knew what I was being asked. When they said, “Are you liberal or are you conservative?” those words had concrete meaning, embodied real political concepts.

But that is no longer the case — at least where the latter term is concerned.

Once upon a time, when a person identified as conservative, you knew the ideas he or she meant to convey — low taxes, small government, resistance to social change. But a word that once encoded a definite set of values and beliefs now seems utterly bereft of internal cohesion, less a name for an ideology than for a mood: surly, nasty and put-upon.

They don’t like the rest of us. Nor do they seem to like each other all that much, feuding with a bitterness and constancy that would make even the Hatfields and McCoys tell them to tone it down. Yes, ideology still gets lip service, but its importance has become secondary, if that.

How else to explain that people who once considered Christian faith their foundation stone have coalesced behind a candidate who can’t name a Bible verse? Or that people who once valued a grown-up, clear-eyed approach to foreign policy support candidates who want to “carpet bomb” the Middle East and pull out of NATO? Or that people who once decried “a culture of victimization” now whine all day about how they are victims of biased media, bullying gays and political correctness?

How to explain that people who once vowed to safeguard American moral decency from the nefarious irreverence of liberals — think President Bush chastising “The Simpsons” in the era of “family values” — now put forth candidates who tell penis jokes?

A few days ago New York Times, columnist David Brooks professed to be excited by this act of self-immolation — “This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative,” he gushed — because after this debacle, conservatives will be able to reinvent themselves, unencumbered by “existing mental categories and presuppositions.” Like when a comic book or movie franchise gets re-booted, I suppose. One had the sense of a man desperately painting lipstick on a pig.

The right is rotting from within, putrefying on its own grievance and rage. It seems bereft of core values and beliefs unless you count its determination to always oppose anything the left supports, up to and including motherhood and sunshine. That’s as close to principle as conservatives come these days.

Given the way they have spurned their party’s 2012 election “autopsy” report, which called for greater inclusion and a gentler tone, one wonders if these folks are capable of, or even interested in, the reinvention Brooks predicts. Conservatives do not need to be “liberal-lite” — no ideology has a monopoly on good ideas. On the other hand, when your base is the Ku Klux Klan, Ted Nugent and people sucker-punching strangers at rallies, it’s a sign that a little self-reflection is overdue.

“Are you liberal or are you conservative?”

I had a smart aleck answer 20 years ago. But it occurs to me that if they asked that now, I’d have to request clarification. My worldview hasn’t changed.

But I no longer have any idea what “conservative” means.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz waves as he arrives to speak at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts 

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. patrick g van meter April 3, 2016

    I would have a hard time defining conservatism. As long as conservatives are against SS and Medicare along with anything else that helps people, I will be against them. That is all the definition I need.

    1. itsfun April 3, 2016

      SS and Medicare are paid for by the people. Every paycheck I ever got had a SS deduction. My SS check has a deduction for my Medicare. The people are helping their-selves. I don’t know any conservative that is against people helping their-selves.

      1. patrick g van meter April 3, 2016

        I do. In fact everyone of them that want to privatize SS and Medicare. Big number.

        1. itsfun April 3, 2016

          You know people that against helping their selves? I have read where some want to let people put 10% of their SS deductions in private accounts. If I had been allowed to do that, I would have a lot more money today. I have seen where Bernie wants to use Medicare as the national health care plan.

          1. FireBaron April 3, 2016

            Or you would be 10% poorer, especially if you started in 2007, when this was proposed.

          2. itsfun April 3, 2016

            I would have just moved the money into some kind of mutual fund getting a low %. I still would have liked the chance at it.

          3. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

            Too bad.

          4. JPHALL April 3, 2016

            What stopped you? Many people who now get SS also invested in stocks, bonds, land and securities.

          5. itsfun April 3, 2016

            Nothing, I did that. I just would have been able to do more.

        2. paulyz April 3, 2016

          Ah, it was Obama & the Democrat-Socialist Party that stole $716 BILLION from Medicare to pay for a failed Obamacare, plus another $500 BILLION new tax increase. As for S.S., Obama & the Democrat-Socialist Party have done NOTHING to shore it up, it’s on it’s way to insolvency. Think again which is the truly compassionate Party, it’s not the one that hides the problems & constantly increases taxes, that eventually, just the interest, will consume 100% of tax revenue. What then?

          1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

            Obamacare hasn’t failed, it’s been incredibly successful. Most of the rest of what you said was gibberish or outright false, or both.

            I hope that helps!

          2. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

            The $716B that you mentioned was realized by introducing efficiency, eliminating duplication, eliminating waste, and introducing regulation to limit the probability of fraud.
            I have been on MEDICARE for several years, and I have not seen any reductions in services. On the contrary, MEDICARE is in better financial shape than it was thanks to the changes made by President Obama.
            As for the Affordable Care Act, it is anything but a failure. Twenty million Americans who did not have healthcare insurance before the ACA became law, because they could not afford it or because of clauses such as the infamous pre-existing condition clause, are now covered, and can afford coverage thanks to a program that includes subsidies for those who need them.

          3. paulyz April 4, 2016

            Medicare & S.S. for those on it now, is fine, it is the next generation that will be the ones that suffer. Nothing has been done to fix it. After seeing huge increases in premiums & deductables, many on Obamacare don’t use it because they cannot afford it. Many others have decided it’s better to pay the fine than to be on Obamacare. For those that get subsidies, the money to pay for the subsidies have to come from somewhere, & with our ever increasing National Debt, the days of freebies for votes will come crashing down.

          4. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

            SS can remain solvent for many years to come by simply raising the contribution cap to a more realistic amount.
            The ACA subsidies represent a drop in the bucket in the accumulation of debt, which is caused, mostly, by deficit spending, interest on the debt, obligations (SS, MEDICARE, interest on Treasury bonds, etc), and the cost of unfunded crusades.
            Take a look at which party is most responsible for deficit spending, and engaging in wars without appropriating the necessary funds – and raising taxes to pay for it – and it will not be too difficult to determine who is responsible for the increase in the national debt.

          5. paulyz April 4, 2016

            So, your solution to the “pay as you go plan” of S.S., is to again, increase taxes. Under Obama’s reign, not anybody elses, the National Debt increased from $10.7 TRILLION to $19 TRILLION & growing, expected to reach $21 TRILLION! Guess we will need to just keep on deficit spending then according to you Socialists. Not sure where the revenue will come from, eventually the interest on this Debt will consume ALL revenue. Maybe your grandkids will be grateful for you & your Party doing that to them, when they had no say in it.

          6. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

            The deficit has been reduced by 2/3, and we have not engaged in any unfunded adventures during the past 7.5 years. The debt is money that was spent, borrowed, or obligations we incurred. If it was based on current deficits and borrowing the debt would have been much lower.

          7. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

            Raising the contribution cap to, say, $200K does not mean most American will pay higher taxes. At the present time a secretary or waitress pays into SS 52 weeks out of the year. A billionaire satisfies his SS obligations early on New Years Day.

          8. paulyz April 11, 2016

            But again your “solution” is More Taxes!

          9. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Pauly…..how in hell do you expect our Government to pay for this country’s necessities; i.e., infrastructure, security, military, etc., without money coming in from taxpayers? People seem to forget that taxes that are collected go to pay for these things, and these items suffer from inflation much like everything else. You can’t continue to NOT raise taxes and expect to be able to pay for keeping this country safe and on track. I find it difficult that you cannot see or understand that!!! Where WILL the revenue comes from to accomplish this if not from taxes? How do YOU expect to pay for our increased military (per Trump and Cruz), increased security, etc.? Additionally, there hasn’t been a president yet (except for GWB) who has been through a war and failed to raise taxes to pay for it. Because our last wondrous president failed to do that…..this is why our current president inherited such a large deficit (which, by the way, he’s cut by over two-thirds), and still has part of the debt from the last administration. I know that’s difficult for you to comprehend even tho’ you’ve been told this about a million times by people much smarter than you are….but, we keep trying.

          10. itsfun April 4, 2016

            Have you seen the rate increases in the Obamacare tax over the last 5 years?

          11. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

            Insurance rate increases are consistent with higher cost. Unlike Universal Healthcare controlled by the government, the ACA is influenced by the decisions of the insurance industry, service providers, the pharmaceutical industry, and manufacturers of medical equipment.
            It is still lower than what people would pay in premiums if they tried to get insurance on their own, especially for those who receive subsidies.

          12. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Not to talk about those who were NEVER able to get insurance because of predisposed illnesses. Many people are now able to actually see a doctor in lieu of going to an ER (which ends up costing the taxpayer) for less-than emergency situations.

          13. Dominick Vila April 5, 2016

            Perhaps not surprisingly, many Republicans are enraged because they now have to pay a portion of the health insurance premiums, instead of getting communist ER freebies. They don’t call themselves REDS for nothing!

          14. dpaano April 6, 2016

            And, the BIG elephant in the room is that these same individuals that want to do away with Obamacare don’t seem to understand that it’s their taxpayer’s money that pays for people without insurance when they go to the ER or are put in the hospital for illnesses that could have been taken care of by a primary care physician if they had the ability to see one. But, as you said, the ones that don’t have health insurance and that avail themselves of this are the ones to blame……and the GOP talks about “takers”…..this is the epitome!

          15. Dominick Vila April 6, 2016

            Not surprisingly, the same people that find subsidies to help middle class Americans get medical insurance, have no problem with subsidies to corporations that don’t need them to post hefty profits.

          16. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Ah Dominick, that was a purely incorrect, biased statement. You surely know that it is by far people that identify with the Democrat-Socialist Party the ones not happy with paying for sonething. They are used to the Free Stuff. You are rapidly losing any credibility.

          17. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Hey, Pauly, have to pop your bubble but healthcare costs go up EVERY year no matter what. I am not under Obamacare because my company provides health care options, but those options go up at least 1-2% each year due to inflation. Everything goes up in time……rarely do you see anything go down (except for gas when we have a glut of it)! So your comment is ridiculous!

          18. itsfun April 5, 2016

            You are talking about a 1 or 2% increase. Obamacare rates are up in some areas 29 to 50%. You comment is shows complete ignorance on the issue. Anyway do you really think I care about your ridiculous comments?

          19. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Agreed…..it does, however, need some loopholes fixed and some small things fixed….other than that, most of the recipients are pretty darn happy to have it!! Even my doctor and his very large group have NO problems with Obamacare! In fact, they say it’s much easier for them to do their jobs and to help the most people in the best way.

          20. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Guess again, the LARGEST insurer just dropped out of the Obamacare fiasco. Do you ever get the REAL News, or just leftist garbage?

          21. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Another piece of BS that you’ve been fed by your GOP brothers-in-arms!!!

      2. ray April 4, 2016

        That’s socialism and it works if everybody pay there fair share. A lot of people on the right don’t like paying there fair share.

        1. itsfun April 4, 2016

          Who gets to decide what your fair share is? Everyone pays the same for basic Medicare and that’s the way it should be.

        2. Independent1 April 4, 2016

          Ray, I don’t mean to correct, but SS and Medicare aren’t like “socialism’, they’re ‘socialistic’. Right-wingers love to misuse the term ‘socialism’ when they clearly have no clue as to what the term means. Here’s a basic definition:

          Socialism: a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.

          Socialism is actually a form of government where private people don’t own any businesses or private property – under Socialism, the government owns everything. SS and Medicare are in a sense ‘socialistic’ because they’re not run by the private sector and are funded by taxes paid by the citizens.

          1. ray April 5, 2016

            Your right my mistake.

      3. dpaano April 5, 2016

        And how much of our Social Security money was “borrowed” by the Republicans and never paid back? There are enough IOU’s in the SS bank that, if they were reimbursed, we’d have enough money to cover SS for years and years to come!!! Unfortunately, President Johnson opened the flood gates and allowed borrowing from this fund….and that was the downfall of Social Security.

        1. itsfun April 5, 2016

          And what does your comment have to do with what I was saying?

  2. paulyz April 3, 2016

    Wrong Leonard Pitts, the Right is not rotting from within, the Country is rotting from Socialist Democrat policies for decades, & the Right has to be more aggressive to turn it back. Simple as that, MILLIONS are utterly disgusted by our non-representative Big Federal Government growing worse by the day!

    1. charleo1 April 3, 2016

      You can’t fix some kinds of stupid. Look I’ll show you how this works. What specifically Sir is the first Democratic Socialist policy that is now rotting the Country, would you as President eliminate? And how would doing so stop the rotting that is worsening.

      1. paulyz April 3, 2016

        Here’s how stupid, the non-stop spending & growth of the Federal Government which has failed in poverty, unity, crime, education, employment, & affordable medical insurance. Those EVERYBODY covered hasn’t worked, many don’t even get the health care they beed, because the costs of Obamacare are rising rapidly. The non-stop spending in case you haven’t figured it out yet, is the only way Democrat-Socialists get votes. Just ask Bernie!

        1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          You’re right – the Republicans should never be allowed back in power again.

        2. charleo1 April 4, 2016

          So you say. I say, go by what someone does, not what they say they do. And the record on Republican acuity on economic matters going back to the days before the Great Depression, prove they do entirely opposite of what they say they do. The math helped me figure that out. What yardstick are you using?

        3. dpaano April 5, 2016

          Interesting, more people have health insurance now than ever before, so not sure where you’re getting your info (oh yeah, I forgot….your GOP leaders).

    2. CrankyToo April 3, 2016

      “Duh. I don’t understand it. I’ve cut this board three times and it’s still too short!!!”

      Keep doing what you’re doing, dumba$$.

      1. paulyz April 3, 2016

        Perhaps carpentry isn’t your thing. (Dumba$$)

        1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          Perhaps economics isn’t yours?

          1. paulyz April 4, 2016

            At least you left out your usual derogatory language.

          2. Mr Corrections April 4, 2016

            You must be mistaking me for yourself, which means I have to have a shower now.

          3. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Bet you purposely drop the bar of soap! hee hee

          4. King of America April 11, 2016

            haha I get it, gays are icky *snort*

            that 1950s comedy will make a huge comeback any day now

          5. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Your definition, not mine.

          6. King of America April 11, 2016

            Sorry you’re a homophobe! Nothing to do with me, though.

          7. paulyz April 12, 2016

            There you go with assumptions again , but, “not that there is anything wrong with it” as they say on Seinfeld.

          8. King of America April 12, 2016

            OK thanks for the dated reference; I’ll look that up later. I don’t see what it has to do with your HILARIOUS jokes about gay people, though.

    3. FireBaron April 3, 2016

      So, paulyz, you have decided to rear your head again.

      1. dpaano April 5, 2016

        No, he just pulled his head out of his rear!!!

    4. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

      Can you name the metric you’re using to measure how it’s getting “worse”?

      1. BigAl1825 April 3, 2016

        The Beckometer.

      2. paulyz April 3, 2016

        Certainly, the unsustainable growth in our National Debt, headed for $21 TRILLION, getting worse, more spending, growth of government & nothing to show for it.

        1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          Ah, so a nonsense metric that doesn’t apply to Republican presidents. Got it.

          1. paulyz April 4, 2016

            Increased Federal Government growth & unsustainable debt is the wrong way to go, no matter which Party does it, but under Obama, it has exploded. The reason Trump is so popular by many is because voters finally realized that Washington doesn’t represent them, the Establishment controls us & won’t give up their power.

          2. Mr Corrections April 4, 2016

            Sorry, everything you just said was utterly wrong.

          3. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            Pauly was wrong in a really big way. While Reagan and the 2 Bushes increased the size of our government by over 265,000 overall – Carter, Clinton and Obama shrunk it by over 380,000 to where today, it’s 330,000 smaller than when Reagan left office in January of 1989; even though it’s serving over 75 million more people.

          4. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Everything Pauly says is utterly wrong!

          5. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            Wow! Do you know how to do anything but LIE?? Fact is Pauly the idiot!! Reagan increased the size of our government by over 280,000 workers and Bush 2 added another 55,000 just to the federal government; And under Bushy Boy, all governments around the nation Federal, state, county and local increased by over 950,000. NOW THAT’S EXPLODING GOVERNMENT.

            While in contrast, under Carter, Clinton and Obama, the size of our government came down by over 380,000 to where today, our government is 330,000 workers smaller than when Reagan left office in January of 1989 – EVEN WHILE THERE ARE MORE THAN 75 MILLION MORE PEOPLE IN AMERICA THAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAS TO SERVE AND PROTECT!!!

            And under Obama, all governments across the nation have come down by over 700,000 workers rather than exploding by 950,000 under Bush!!!!!!!



          6. charleo1 April 4, 2016

            That’s right. Bush = deficits don’t matter. Obama = we’re spending our kids into oblivion!!!

        2. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          Still, that’s a compelling argument for re-electing the Democrats.

          1. paulyz April 4, 2016

            So, you figure another 8 years of failing Socialist policies, will somehow magically work!

          2. Mr Corrections April 4, 2016

            The national debt that you’re worried about is growing because of the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq war. Without those, Obama’s performance would be around the same as that of Clinton – or in other words, the debt wouldn’t be growing. It’s Republicans that increase the debt. Reagan, for example, tripled it.

            I hope that helps!

          3. paulyz April 4, 2016

            After 8 years of Obama & you still blame Bush, because you haven’t any defense for your hero’s failed Socialism.

          4. BigAl1825 April 4, 2016

            1) The deficit has massively shrunk under Obama, as it did under Clinton. That means the rate of growth of debt is shrinking.

            2) Our debt is not out of proportion to our GDP, historically, or compared to our peer nations. And that’s all that matters.

            3) Lenders seem to have no fear about the ability of the U.S. to pay its debt. The market believes the debt and economy is safe enough that the interest rates for buying U.S. debt are paltry. The rate of return on bonds of almost any other nation are higher than the U.S., because other nations are considered a greater risk.

            THAT is what the free market is telling you. Do you not believe in markets? What kind of capitalist are you?

          5. Mr Corrections April 4, 2016

            OK sorry you don’t understand (very slightly) complicated things; not my fault.

          6. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            When a conservative idiot and his irresponsible GOP Congresses PASS ONE UNFUNDED PIECE OF LEGISLATION AFTER ANOTHER;, deliberately forwarding the funding of all that legislation INTO THE FUTURE, then as long as those pieces of legislation ARE RUNNING UP DEFICITS, THAT IDIOT CONSERVATIVE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE DEFICITS (DEBTS) THAT GET ACCUMULATED IN THE FUTURE!!!!!!

          7. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Obama’s debt is caused by taxing & spending on many programs not “Necessary” for our National Security or the business of the Federal Government, just taxing & spending for votes from leftists like you.

          8. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Yes, because Bush was one of the worse presidents ever!

          9. paulyz April 11, 2016

            But your Socialist idol Obama easily surpassed him, huh?

          10. dpaano April 5, 2016

            No, Pauly doesn’t believe that. I’ve told him this many, many times, and it just goes in one ear, through his empty brain, and out the other ear. He refuses to see the truth and, as I’ve said before, only believes what his GOP leaders tell him to believe! He has NO concept of thinking for himself.

          11. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Pauly….the only failure of policies are due to the GOP Senate and House and their total disregard for anything that President Obama or other Democrats have tried to put forth to help this country. You’re blaming the wrong group of people, as are many in this country when they look to Trump for salvation!

    5. BigAl1825 April 3, 2016

      Clinton practiced neocon economics, Reaganomics, because it was popular, and Obama has largely followed suit, with Reagan being one of his most-cited former presidents.

      So which of the presidents in the last “decades,” Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, or Obama have implemented these “Socialist Democrat policies?”

      p.s. There are zero socialists in the Democratic Party, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, who only chose join them this time around to see the party nomination, but has been a political independent for decades.

      1. paulyz April 3, 2016

        Incorrect, there are over 60 Democrats that are members of the Democrat-Socialists of America. Not so long ago, Democrats hated to be called Liberal, or Socialist, but reading most comments on the Memo, most now embrace it.

        1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          what’s wrong with socialism?

          1. Independent1 April 3, 2016

            Especially given that there are at least 75 socialist organizations/enterprises/activities that virtually every American uses and maybe depends on at least a few of, every single day of their lives.


            America’s highways

            Our postal system

            Your city’s police department

            Your city’s fire departments

            America’s military including the national guard

            Your city’s library

            The FBI

            The CIA

            Your town’s garbage collection

            etc. etc.

            For the full list of 75 Socialist programs that have improved America, go here:


          2. paulyz April 4, 2016

            What an ignorant Dummy. Most of those aren’t Socialist organizations. The Founders created the Federal Government very reluctantly & very limited for only those functions that the States couldn’t handle individually, such as our Military, post offices, Treasury, foreign trade, etc. Many of the others you listed are performed by the States, NOT the Central Government. The National Guard is by States. Medicare & S.S. are not necessary functions of the Federal Government, or Education, but could be handled better by individuals, but are now dependent on the Federal Government. More Dependency, more Federal Control, that answers NOT to The PEOPLE.

            But the Socialist dailykos (LMAO), persuades you these functions are because of Socialism, & DUMMIES like you, fall for it!

          3. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            And you add to your ignorance when you claim the things that I listed are not socialistic. They are not private sector organizations: they are run and paid for by a government and therefore paid for by the tax payers – THEREFORE THEY ARE SOCIALISTIC!!!

          4. paulyz April 11, 2016

            You ARE a Socialist though, actually an ADMITTED Communist! Now you try to disavow it? Wow, Alinski tactics all the way. Thanks Dumfkoff.

          5. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Pauly doesn’t know the difference and I bet he tells you that you are wrong!

          6. paulyz April 4, 2016

            Oh, so now you admit you like Socialism like most Democrat-Socialists. Thanks.

          7. ray April 4, 2016

            Hey Paulz have you ever been in the military do you like your freedom.

          8. paulyz April 4, 2016

            Yes, & why what’s happening to our Vets is so disgraceful. Without a strong Military, & patriotic Citizens that join, there wouldn’t be freedom. But our own government is doing it’s best to remove it theirselves.

          9. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            Well, you can thank the GOP for screwing our veterans. Why haven’t you?? (And by the way, this is in no way the first time the GOP has been screwing over services and support for our veterans!!!)

            From Swords&Plowshares:

            The House of Representatives passed a 2016 budget bill for the Department of Veteran Affairs. H.R.2029 (Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016) is $1.4 billion less than requested by the President and affects the availability and quality of services for tens of thousands of veterans. It is already drawing criticism for lack of bipartisan support and a threat of a presidential veto.


          10. paulyz April 11, 2016


          11. Mr Corrections April 4, 2016

            I’m sorry that you can’t read.

          12. charleo1 April 4, 2016

            Better than Fascism, better than an Oligarchy, a Kleptocracy, or an angry leaderless political movement made up of fact challenged insurgent half wits, willing to follow an authoritarian, demagogue, slash, farce, joker, loud mouth to the gates of hell, to, “save,” a Nation from it’s own majority. Yes, there’s a lot things in this World worse than Socialism.

          13. paulyz April 4, 2016

            But most of you Liberals on here always claim you are Socialists, then say you aren’t, then say what’s wrong with it? Conservatives are not Fascists, just an incorrect choice of words to deflect the failures of Socialism. Fascists are government controlled dictators like Obama, whereas Conservatives are for LESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT control of our lives, more individual freedom, the exact opposite of fascists.

          14. charleo1 April 4, 2016

            Fascism: an authoritarian and nationalistic, right-wing system of government and social organization. The reason so many a Winger in the GOP base is supporting Trump, is they are in their heart of hearts authoritarian, nativists, nationalistic, militaristic, and don’t let them tell you they don’t like a huge central government to enforce their agenda.
            They absolutely do, And Trump is singing their song. The flirtations of the Right with Fascist regimes, social authoritarianism, and top down economic systems controlled by the rich throughout the 20th century are well documented.

          15. Independent1 April 4, 2016

            When are you going to wake up to the fact that our government today is 330,000 workers smaller than it was in January of 1989 when Reagan left office after increasing the size of our government by over 280,000 workers???????

          16. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Pauly doesn’t look up anything and only believes what his GOP brethren tell him to believe.

          17. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Do you ACTUALLY know what socialism is, Pauly? I think not because this country has quite a few socialist policies…..and they seem to be working. Socialism is NOT the same as communism, but you might be confused about that. Go read a dictionary, okay?

          18. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Here is a Direct quote from Vladimir Lenin, “The goal of Socialism is Communism”. Please become informed before spouting out with your boring leftist biases, showing your ignorance. Okay? Good.

    6. Independent1 April 3, 2016

      Say Pauly, when are you going to enlighten us as to even one really positive thing Conservatives have done for America; has a conservative enacted any legislation that the average America can say ‘Wow! Thanks for doing that??” Like millions of Americans can say about Social Security and Medicare and even ACA that was enacted under duress from you idiot Conservatives by liberals???

      So we’re waiting here with baited breath – waiting for you to enlighten us as to what Conservatives have done that allows you Conservatives to be the egotistical bigots that most of you are. Come on!! Let’s hear all the wonderful things Conservatives have done for anyone but the upper 20% of our population!!!

      1. paulyz April 4, 2016

        Tell us oh enlightened one how many Americans are saying, “WOW” after 8 years of failed Socialist policies that have created record poverty, long-term unemployment, continued problems in the ability of our deeply indebted Federal Government to sustain Medicare & S.S., much less Obamacare, which was subsidized by Medicare & even more deficit spending. Maybe if you continue to hold your breath thinking of ways to explain & justify that, instead of blaming others like Obama, you will disappear. What are you using for “bait” in your breath, it smells! Dummy!

        1. Independent1 April 4, 2016

          Nice cop-out there Pauly. Since you couldn’t come up with one thing favorable the GOP has done for America in the past 100 plus years, you try to attack Obama’s record with one lie after another.

          Fact is Pauly, that exactly the number of people who had a favorable view of Reagan in his last year, have an increasingly favorable view of what Obama has done over the past 8 years. Obama has exactly the same favorability record in his last year as Reagan but in Obama’s case, his favorability is going up as more and more Americans realize they’re much better off than they were at any time during Bush’s disastrous 8 years!!

          And the fact is too Pauly THAT YOU LIE about poverty in America. Poverty rates are down across the nation from when Obama took office. When Obama took office there were 24 states with more than 15% of their populations living below the poverty level with 21 of those states being GOP-run states. Today, to get 24 states with high poverty rates I have to use 12% as the benchmark (down 3 percentage points) but what hasn’t changed is that 21 of those poverty-leading states are still run by the GOP.

          You are such a pathetic pathological lying person that I really don’t understand how you can even live with yourself. I guess when you’re a worthless human being, it doesn’t matter how much you lie EVEN TO YOURSELF!!!!!

          1. paulyz April 4, 2016

            It is you that ignores answers by switching to asking questions, very typical Socialist tactic. But even though you swore several times you would not make any comments to me, I will enlighten you, even though it’s a complete waste of my time. You get your false information from the dailykos (LMAO), and other Leftist trash, why you’re so confused. A very big reason why the U.S. advanced so rapidly was from many great American companies through capitalism & competition, created wealth for Millions, creating a vibrant Middle-Class, with money to spend, thus creating a demand for more growth & opportunities. Socialist policies eventually caused many businesses to fail, or leave the U.S. in order to be competitive. All we hear from you Socialists is anti-capitalism, blaming the wealth of others, and redistribution, which disolved our Middle-Class & bankrupt businesses.

            Now you may proceed to copy & paste some leftist crap saying otherwise, why I won’t bother wasting my “baited” breath on an ignorant, leftist DUMMY. Got it?

          2. dpaano April 5, 2016

            See, Independent1, Pauly did EXACTLY what I said he would do…..he has NO brain of his own.

          3. paulyz April 11, 2016

            Total BS by you, Conservatives are independent & Patriotic, not Liberal followers of Big Government control. Hope you are enjoying your cage, make sure you always get “permission” from your leaders before you do anything on your own.

            I see you agree with Independent 1, which is a complete misuse of words to describe his dependency. He is an avowed Communist, so I know now where you are coming from.

          4. dpaano April 5, 2016

            Unfortunately, Pauly has been brainwashed by the GOP mantra….he suffers from chronic Stockholm Syndrome….believing everything that he’s told by his so-called fearsome GOP leaders (who lie and use scare tactics to motivate their base…to hell with the truth)! Trying to reason with Pauly is impossible….he just turns everything you say around and blurts out the most recent spate of GOP BS!!!

        2. dpaano April 5, 2016

          Pauly….once again, as many have told you, look to the past president(s) and the problems that they left for the American people and our current president. But, as often heard, none of you have the balls to put the blame where the blame actually lies!!! The Republican presidents have run this country into the ground, and if they are allowed to run this country again, we can all just go and bury ourselves because we’ll be in even deeper trouble!!! Trump and Cruz have NO ideas that will help most Americans (unless they are in the 1%).

      2. dpaano April 5, 2016

        Maybe Pauly needs to re-read FireBaron’s post because it epitomizes him to a tee!!! Today’s conservative believes that if you don’t think the same way as he/she does, then you don’t count! That’s not the way our government needs to run…….and it’s not the way it used to run.

  3. charleo1 April 3, 2016

    Can we now just admit that the word conservative no longer in any way describes the Right? I think David Brooks is a bright man, and once an articulate spokesperson for the kind of Conservatism he not only understood, but genuinely agreed with. Today he is a dreamer. Him and other likeminded columnists the family in the waiting room with their relative on life support, unwilling to pull the plug. Hoping against hope it will all be righted in the end. It will not. The Conservative Right most of us have known all our lives is terminal. And what will replace it is as yet unclear, but it’s nothing good. And theres no sense pretending it’s going to get any better any time soon. If it wasn’t Trump leading the angry mob of disgruntled, and left behinds, theres no doubt it would be some another shameless demagogue. Scapegoating the powerless, to create convenient targets for their hoodwinked dupes.

    1. FireBaron April 3, 2016

      Given Brooks’ philosophy, were he an elected official, one or more individuals would have labeled him a RINO, if only because of his personal friendships with some liberal commentators. Everyone “knows” that “True Conservatives” cannot have any friendships with anyone other than “True Conservatives”.
      In that, they are similar to some of these Megachurches, where you have “the Saved” and “the non-members”. You do not consort with anyone outside of a predefined circle otherwise you face censure, condemnation and expulsion from the pure.

      1. BigAl1825 April 3, 2016

        And you hit directly on a fact that the GOP’s current iteration is a product of having hitched their wagons to the evangelical train. That powerful block has come to dominate the party, and any group of people who blindly turn megachurch charlatans into millionaires can’t possibly be a group you want to rely on for political savvy.

  4. Beethoven April 3, 2016

    I’m both a liberal and a conservative. Not in the way political positions are labeled today, but as follows: In economics, I’m a liberal, because I believe that if I (or you) have plenty of money or other wealth, it should be spent bringing happiness to yourself and to others, including family, friends, neighbors, and strangers who have less. But I’m conservative because I believe that if you have a limited amount of wealth, you should be careful how you spend it, and do so wisely, and if you have plenty to spare, you should also spend it wisely and not on foolish extravagances that you don’t need. Socially, I’m a liberal because I believe that other people have a right to be different from me, and I can learn and make myself better by trying to understand their differences, but I’m a conservative because I have a basic understanding of who I am, and don’t need to follow every fad that comes along, or try to be like all the people around me. In politics, I’m a liberal because I believe the government should be active in “promoting the general welfare” by taxing the citizens to support infrastructure and services that benefit every citizen, and providing support to those who are incapable of supporting themselves, and I’m a conservative because I believe the government should not be involved in enforcing one particular religious or moral viewpoint, and should not provide special advantages to people who can easily take care of themselves.

    1. dpaano April 5, 2016

      Well said…..and I agree. As you put it, I am also the same. Unfortunately, the conservatives and the liberals have grown so far apart in the past 20-30 years that they are no longer what they used to be. When I was young, you’d NEVER see another politician treat a sitting president as discourteously as they have, especially with President Obama. It’s pretty sad that we have come to this end, and I don’t think Trump or Cruz will change anything for the better.

      1. paulyz April 11, 2016

        You must have Alzheimers then, you already forgotten the complete hatred & disrespect of G.W. Bush from you nasty Libs. And even to this day STILL blame him for your Mesiah’s many & costly failures. Obama doesn’t deserve much respect as he doesn’t respect Congress or the American people.

  5. Paul Anthony April 3, 2016

    Labels are misleading. People are individuals with nuanced ideas that labels fail to describe. I am a FISCAL conservative, but I can’t support the GOP because I’m a SOCIAL liberal. The Democrats are the antithesis of fiscal conservatism, so I can’t support that Party, either.
    When asked if I’m liberal or conservative, my answer is also “yes”.

    1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

      The Democrats have outperformed the Republicans economically for decades.

      1. Independent1 April 3, 2016

        Actually for over 100 years – since 1900 the average GDP growth under Republicans is a paltry 2.6%/yr while a much more robust 4.3%/yr under Democrats. And even Carter outperformed Reagan with an average 10.89%/yr GDP growth in his 8 years compared to Reagan’s 7.3%/yr average during his 8 years.

        1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

          There you go, then.

        2. A. D. Reed April 3, 2016

          Though Carter had only four years. Unfortunately.

          1. Independent1 April 3, 2016

            Yeah! I noticed the typo when I posted it, but my wife called me away to help her and I haven’t gotten back to correct it till just now. The GOP has so over-hyped and glorified Reagan that it’s a crime. The economy under Reagan wasn’t even as good as it had been under Nixon. And every Democrat in office since Coolidge has outperformed economically every Republican see this chart.

          2. A. D. Reed April 4, 2016

            I’m SO glad you posted this chart. Well done.

    2. A. D. Reed April 3, 2016

      Paul: The Democrats are hardly “the antithesis of fiscal conservatism.” In fact, what they have done for two generations is invest in America, just as true conservatives do, while the Republicans have, conversely, been robbing America blind. The Democratic Congresses of 1946-1950 and 1954-1994 invested in the Interstate Highway System, Medicare and Medicaid, public education from kindergarten to college, the National Parks System, a vast range of scientific endeavors (remember putting rockets, dogs, monkeys, and then humans into space?), and a multitude of other necessary investments for a growing, healthy economic powerhouse. To say nothing of expanding the rights of all human beings to self-determination through the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX, etc. They did so with both Republican and Democratic presidents, and with great success.

      And yes, sometimes they went overboard, and needed to be reined in from their excesses, which for the most part grew out of a combination of over-enthusiasm for what we could accomplish “if we’d only dream big enough” (kind of like Bernie and the Bernheads) coupled with unwillingness to question themselves and recalibrate their ideas in light of sometimes disappointing realities.

      It was only in response to the hyperbole of Reagan and the equally overblown promises of Reaganomics — which have proven unworkable not just in a few cases, as in Democratic policies, but across the board — that the Democrats changed into fiscal cowards. Since the mid-1980s they have reacted to the popularity of Bonzo’s pal by allowing the discredited supply-side promises of Arthur Laffer and his ilk to be seen as “the norm” of fiscal polity, despite that fact that, other than a few third-rate or ideologically blindered economists from the Chicago school, realists acknowledge that Reaganomics has been proven to be a disaster wherever it’s been implemented. Viz, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida.

      I am a FISCAL conservative, so I am a Democrat. And I am a progressive traditionalist (or traditionalist progressive), so I am a Democrat. And I am a determined, dyed-in-the-wool America-first patriot, so I am a Democrat.

      1. Paul Anthony April 3, 2016

        The democrats have been in charge in such splendid places as Detroit and Baltimore for more than 50 years. That’s what success looks like through liberal fiscal policy. Blue states have the highest tax rates and the highest cost of living in the nation. Pity the poor people who are blessed with liberal idealism.

        1. Independent1 April 4, 2016

          Is that why it’s 14 Blue States that get back from the federal government the least federal aid of any states in the nation (less than 85 cents on the dollar in taxes they send to Washington) and therefore are effectively supporting the running of America??

          And is that why there are only three Republican led states that get less back in federal aid than they send to Washington in taxes and all 3 of those get back between 96 and 98 cents on their tax dollar?? While every other red state sucks back BY FAR more in federal aid than they send to Washington in Taxes??.

          And is that why 29 of 31 states that have been determined by money magazine to have the most citizens on the verge of bankruptcy are GOP governed states??

          And is that why in the list of states where the per capita consumption spending is the lowest in the nation – all 25 of the states with the lowest spending are GOP-run states (because their citizens make peanuts for salaries)?

          And is that why of the 24 states in America which have more than 12% of their citizens living below the poverty level, 21 of them are GOP-run states??

          And is Wilkerson who worked for Colin Powell in a recent speech he gave in Texas said that, if it wasn’t for all the monies that California and New York send to Washington which southern states suck up, the vast majority of the Republican led states in the south would look like Bangladesh???

          And is that why that when the survey group 24/7 wall street listed the 10 states with the worst quality of life, all ten of them are GOP- run states??

        2. charleo1 April 5, 2016

          Blaming local Democratic gov. for Detroit’s poverty problems, is as partisan, and wrongheaded as blaming the lung for getting cancer. Instead of the head of the individual that stupidly decided to smoke. One thing we can say about Detroit, is it has yet to poison it’s people, as the solid red, Republican Administration of Rick Snyder has in Flint. And doing so in typical, RW. science denying, regulation averse, Koch Industry lapdog fashion. By a Party who’s mindset fundamentally don’t give a flip about what happens to the common people of this country.
          But they aren’t the bigger problem. The larger, more intrenched problem is the ability of their loyal supporters, the very people they are screwing, to see this outrage with their own eyes, ignore it, discard it, or blame the other guys to excuse it. And put these same sold out hacks, servants of the rich, back in power, as they continue on just as before, with exactly the same outcomes.

  6. Dominick Vila April 3, 2016

    First and foremost, let’s not confuse the social/economic/fiscal conservatives of yesteryear with what passes for conservatism nowadays.
    Candidates like Donald Trump are anything but conservative. He changed his lifelong convictions when he decided to run for the nomination of the Republican party. Even after his born again political metamorphosis, some of his proposals and opinions are dichotomies that only the most naive, or ideologically inclined, can ignore.
    Trump proposed a Berlin style wall along our Southern border, while leaving our Northern border wide open, and proposes to make another country (Mexico) pay for what he wants. If they don’t he will withhold foreign aid from a country that does not rank among the ten top recipients of U.S. aid.
    He plans to carpet bomb ISIS positions, to kill the ISIS terrorists and the people they are victimizing, the way Russia has been doing with great success. So is his admiration of Russian tactics that he has proudly acknowledged his reciprocal admiration of Vladimir, the former Soviet KGB chief.
    To minimize risk, at a time when Germany received one million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in one year, The Donald proposes to ban all Muslims from entering the home of the brave.
    To demonstrate his presidential acumen and civility in a way that every person in the world can understand, he has referred to overweight women as ugly, he points out that those who ask him embarrassing clarifications must be bleeding…through the ears of course. In the hypothetical case of abortion being illegal (the GOP is letting the cat out of the bag), he proposes punishing the women that have an abortion, while letting everyone else off the hook because, after all, they are just doing a little business, or only had a fleeting moment of bliss.
    He wants smaller government, and proposes increasing the defense budget because the most powerful armed forces in the world have to be made great again.
    Interestingly, the neo conservatives love every bit of it because they know that The Donald is the man that is going to bring jobs back to America by implementing President Obama’s proposals to impose high tariffs on the products and services made by U.S. companies abroad, and give tax breaks to those that invest at home. The fact that such proposal was dismissed by the party whose nomination he is seeking does not bother him in the least…and makes no difference to his supporters.
    It does not matter that the only way Trump could implement any of the proposals he is making would require the support of Congress. A minor problem since, as he said, he is handsome, has a great brain, and knows how to make deals…like the ones made in his casinos.
    The only thing that Trump has demonstrated, besides his narcissism, ego, irresponsibility, and immaturity, is that he is a grand master at doing what it takes to be on the spotlight, control the media, and the attention of an electorate more inclined to react to showmanship than substance.

    1. Jmz Nesky April 3, 2016

      That was nicely said and pointedly accurate.. Now let’s go back a few decades and see exactly what this vulture was all about. It won’t be difficult, just follow the bodies he left out to dry.

    2. paulyz April 4, 2016

      Cruz was the one that said to carpet bomb ISIS, not Trump, but either way, you must agree they must be defeated.

      1. Dominick Vila April 4, 2016

        Yes, they must be defeated, but Russian style military tactics is not the way to go. Most importantly, we must understand and address the root causes of the problem, instead of reacting to the latest incidents.

        1. paulyz April 11, 2016

          And meanwhile we allow ISIS to NOT be defeated Militarily? Perhaps if we only show them love & compassion, they will cease their Terrorism.

          1. Dominick Vila April 11, 2016

            We have recovered more than half of the territory held by ISIS.
            Nobody is proposing to love terrorists. The problem is the generalizations that are alienating Islamic countries that support our policies, such as Turkey.

          2. paulyz April 11, 2016

            And how did we recover half the territory held by ISIS, singing Kumbaya, or Military Force?

          3. Dominick Vila April 12, 2016

            “We” (Assad’s government and Iraqi government forces) did that with the help of the Russians, and U.S. advisers embedded with the Iraqi troops.
            Nobody is saying that ISIS is going to give up its goals if we are nice to them. The only way to defeat them is militarily. What requires diplomacy and good will is gaining the support of moderate Muslims, and that is not accomplished using incendiary rhetoric such as the one we hear from Trump and Cruz. The last thing we should do is alienate our allies in the region by accusing ALL Muslims of being radical terrorists and criminals.

          4. paulyz April 12, 2016

            Now you say the “only way to defeat them is militarily”, right after you stated that the military isn’t the way to defeat ISIS? See what I mean about contradictory “progressive” talk? Why is it incendiary to talk of doing to ISIS what the “moderate” Muslims with our help are doing to them? You know perfectly well that Trump wants to keep Muslim refugees out of our Country until they can be vetted oroperly, which according to our Generals, almost impossible. Just like Trump was talking about ILLEGAL immigrants, mostly from Mexico. He said many are good people but Mexico is also sending criminals, drugs, etc. After all that is our Country’s Laws!

          5. Dominick Vila April 12, 2016

            When did I say that military force should not be used to defeat the ISIS fighters?
            What I said, which is apparently too complicated for you to understand, is that destroying the ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq is just a first step, and will not solve the problem in its entirety. We must understand the root causes for their hatred, address them, and carry out our dialogue with moderate Muslims in a civil manner that respects their culture and their sovereignty.
            Killing 50,000 ISIS fighters simply means that we will be dealing with 100,000 the next day. We need to address the reasons for Islamic radicalism, whether it is caused by our presence in that part of the world, the fear of Western influences on the Islamic culture, or dealing with the Mullahs that are radicalizing young people. Otherwise, this situation will persist forever.

          6. paulyz April 12, 2016

            Yes you said military tactics is not the way to go, Russian or otherwise, then you say something about a first step, then something else? We need to FIRST destroy them, not worry about “dealing” with them. Just more “words” .

          7. Dominick Vila April 13, 2016

            Please stop twisting my words. This is what I said: “Russian style military tactics is not the way to go”. If you don’t understand the difference, that’s your problem, not mine.

  7. Jimbaux! April 3, 2016

    As F. A. Hayek said, conservatism isn’t even much of an ideology, as it’s more the ABSENCE OF an ideology.

    There is, however, one very positive aspect of conservatism that, these days, gets too often overlooked both by people who identify AS “conservative” and by those who identify themselves as being against conservatism: the incrementalization of change so as to avoid or temper disruption.

    In this light, if the Republicans wanted to do so and if they could figure out that they should do so, the Affordable Care Act should be considered a resounding conservative success! They were able to allow more nearly universal healthcare while avoiding – by preventing the Democrats from enacting – outright nationalization, the public option, single payer, etc., by preserving the for-profit private insurance market!

    And the conservative in me agrees that going from what we had before to an outright government-run health-care system would be too much change at once, and the progressive in me agrees that the healthcare law was a big improvement over what existed before.

    1. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

      Obamacare absolutely is a conservative success; it’s obviously inferior to universal healthcare, but it does what it set out to do and is fiscally responsible by any metric. The fact that they can’t admit it’s working, or that it was their policy in the first place, illustrates beautifully how dysfunctional the GOP currently is.

      In ten years, they’ll be trying to claim it as theirs all along, and will NEVER refer to it as “Obamacare” but only ACA.

  8. Jmz Nesky April 3, 2016

    Simple.. I’m a liberal conservative (or is that a conservative liberal?) I seem to get those two mixed up.. Simple just to say I’m an American human being and shut the door.

  9. David Reno April 4, 2016

    An excellent column. Instead of saying you don’t know what “conservative” means, why not let those who profess is express it? Voltaire said, “Before you speak, define your terms.”

    For further reading read Gore Vidal’s Barry Goldwater: A chat. Vidal make his point very well. I will let him and the essay speak for itself.


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