Bruce Bartlett: ‘My Life on the Republican Right And How I Saw It All Go Wrong’
Originally posted at The Brad Blog
We’ve been quite remiss by failing to offer the The BRAD BLOG’s much-sought, yet rarely-bestowed “Intellectually Honest Conservative” award to Bruce Bartlett, Ronald Reagan’s domestic policy advisor and George H.W. Bush’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy.
We were reminded of our delinquency again today upon reviewing his candid assessment of the downfall of modern Republicanism and its central core of pretend conservatism as published in a must-read article in the December, 2012 issue of American Conservative. The confessional includes, among many on-target money quotes, this one: “Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing [in 2012] or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.”
Bartlett begins by detailing his decades-long list of unquestionably rock-solid conservative credentials, all of which have earned him exactly nothing from today’s clueless, brain-addled, incurably propagandized Fox “News” “conservative” crowd. In fact, he has garnered their utter contempt by attempting to tell them the truth over the past decade or so, finding himself tossed “under a bus” along with The BRAD BLOG’s very few other past “Intellectually Honest Conservative” award recipients and dissident, reality-based Republicans such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan.
“To this day,” Bartlett writes, “I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable…”
His entire treatise, entitled “Revenge of the Reality-Based Community: My life on the Republican right — and how I saw it all go wrong,” is very much worth reading. It includes his frank admissions that he was wrong about Keynesian economics, as he learned while researching for a 2007 book initially meant to describe it as a dead economic theory.
“After careful research along these lines, I came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s. Previously, I had thought the opposite. But facts were facts and there was no denying my conclusion,” he writes, concluding that George W. Bush’s Great Recession made clear that “We needed Keynesian policies again.”
“Annoyingly,” he says, “I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.”
“For the record,” he generously offers, “no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.”
He talks candidly about his experience being “banned from Fox News” and fired from a right wing think tank for his various acts of Republican heresy (otherwise known as telling the truth), and that such acts have culminated in “what has been called ‘epistemic closure’ among conservatives — living in their own bubble where nonsensical ideas circulate with no contradiction.”
His “first exposure” to the Republicans’ Fox-fueled jihad of self-defeat, he explains, occurred while working on his 2006 book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.
“As I wrote the book… my utter disdain for Bush grew, as I recalled forgotten screwups and researched topics that hadn’t crossed my radar screen. I grew to totally despise the man for his stupidity, cockiness, arrogance, ignorance, and general cluelessness. I also lost any respect for conservatives who continued to glorify Bush as the second coming of Ronald Reagan and as a man they would gladly follow to the gates of hell. This was either gross, willful ignorance or total insanity, I thought.”
“The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal — and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.”
“At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right,” he confesses. “So here we are, post-election 2012. All the stupidity and closed-mindedness that right-wingers have displayed over the last 10 years has come back to haunt them. It is now widely understood that the nation may be center-left after all, not center-right as conservatives thought.”
“At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.”
Bartlett concludes by noting that he doesn’t see things getting much better for reality-based Republicans any time in the near future.
“I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. …There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward.”
Sounds about right. And, for all of that, and much more, we congratulate Mr. Bartlett for becoming The BRAD BLOG’s newest “Intellectually Honest Conservative,” even though we realize that it will, no doubt, garner him even more contempt among those who need his advice the most.
[Hat-tip Eric Boehlert on the Twitters.]