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The True Conservative Scandal

Posted on Nov 13, 2011
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

Conservatives need to contemplate what the Rick Perry and Herman Cain stories say about the state of their movement and the health of their creed.

Perry’s debate gaffe last week was about something more important than “brain freeze.” Memory lapses can strike anyone, even if they are more awkward when they occur during a presidential debate.

What really matters is the subject that sent Perry’s brain into lockdown. He was in the middle of describing sweeping changes in the federal bureaucracy closely connected to his spare vision of American government. One presumes a candidate for president ponders such proposals carefully, discusses them with advisers, and understands their implications.

Forgetting an idea at the heart of your program, in other words, is not the same as forgetting a phone number, a friend’s name, a football score or the title of a recently read book.

Perry’s memory lapse showed that he wasn’t asserting anything that he is truly serious about because he is not serious about what government does, or ought not to do. For him, governing seems a casual undertaking.


Square, Site wide
“And I will tell you,” he declared, “it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education and the—what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

Yes, let’s see what “gone” might imply. Would Perry end all federal aid to education? Would he do away with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the part of the Commerce Department that, among other things, tracks hurricanes? Energy was the department he forgot. Would he scrap the department’s 17 national labs, including such world-class facilities as Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn., or—there’s that primary coming up—Aiken, S.C.? 

I’m not accusing Perry of wanting to do any of these things because I don’t believe he has given them a moment of thought. And that’s the problem for conservatives. Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government. Perry, correctly, thought he had a winning sound bite, had he managed to blurt it out, because if you just say you want to scrap government departments (and three is a nice, round number), many conservatives will cheer without asking questions.

This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect. Although I often disagreed with conservatives, I admired their prudence, their affection for tradition, and their understanding that the intricate bonds of community are established with great difficulty over time and not easy to reweave once they are torn asunder. At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder. Now, many in the ranks seem to have decided that hard and nuanced thinking is a telltale sign of liberalism.

That brings us to Herman Cain, who is trying to get out from under charges of sexual harassment. His approach is to have his campaign attack the individuals who leveled them, and, even more, to go after those who made these charges public.

True, he’s been inconsistent about laying blame. Off and on, he pointed to his Republican opponents. But Cain and his defenders have settled on a strategy to rally conservatives by assailing the “liberal media” and “the Democrat machine.”

Politico ran the first stories about the allegations, and to argue that Politico is “liberal” requires an extraordinary leap of the imagination. Most liberals see Politico as leaning over backward to give conservatives more than their share of journalistic spin.

In any event, while women of a variety of political stripes have been in the forefront in demanding accountability from Cain, plenty of liberals have been happy to look on and let the GOP settle this one. And most members of “the Democrat machine” defended Bill Clinton against impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky matter and are aware of the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.”

Not so with the many conservatives who donned full feminist armor during the Clinton scandal and now defend Cain reflexively, not even asking that he come clean about the facts.

There are honorable exceptions: Bill Bennett, for one, and to some degree—hard to admit, I know—Karl Rove. But that so many other members of a movement theoretically devoted to traditional values on sexual matters would eagerly jump into this mess on Cain’s side speaks volumes about its condition. To paraphrase Bennett from another context, where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass? 

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, November 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment


MC: True conservatism is respectable and reasonable; it is a simply an intellectual style, a lens through which one sees the world, a perspectival frame.

The above may be true but it remains delusional.

Conservatism is an ideology that refuses to admit that America has some major real-time problems that just wont go away because we refuse to recognize them. Like Income Inequality that, in the richest nation on earth, shows a glaring disrespect for human values.

Conservatism is based upon a delusional belief that, somehow, the world does not change radically and old nostrums are still the best solutions. Which is why America is being left-behind as the rest of the world - those without a burden of conservative belief - react with means to protect the well-being of its citizens.

This typically means Central Government exacting laws for that very purpose - the common welfare of its people - which is anathema in the US. America remains stuck in a centuries old battle between state and national government oversight.

The battle started at the foundation of the country, was fought again on the ground in the Civil War and has raised its ugly head yet again since the advent of Ayn-Randian Reaganism.

The odd and irreconcilable fact about Conservatism is that it employs an argument that Federal Government is too big; but when it wins in Washington, it expands expenditures for its constituent donors (namely the Military Industrial Complex).

And the well-being of the rest of America be damned. It’s like a sect that has delimited vision of only those reactionary values that it holds to be true and steadfast.

It is in denial.

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By ORAXX, November 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick Perry doesn’t really have a lot of intellectual fire power to bring to bear on any issue.  The wholly holy macho man is empty, strutting, machismo.  George W. Bush, without the intellect

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By scotttpot, November 16, 2011 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

The “conservative scandal’’ could be over in a day if the Corporate media
did their job and reported how unqualified these incoherent dopes are.
By continuing to pretend these laughingstocks are serious candidates
the Corporate media are openly mocking anyone of normal intelligence.

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By Morri Creech, November 16, 2011 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

True conservatism is respectable and reasonable; it is a simply an intellectual style, a lens through which one sees the world, a perspectival frame. To call the fools and clowns of the Republican party “conservatives” is an insult to the intellectual validity of conservatism itself. What do these charlatans wish to conserve? Corporate crime and entitlements for the rich? The pernicious downward spiral of American exceptionalism? Intentional ignorance and a disdain for learning and wisdom? Oafs and scoundrels all.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, November 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

EJD: Conservatives need to contemplate what the Rick Perry and Herman Cain stories say about the state of their movement and the health of their creed.

I beg to differ. Conservatives should not give second notice to either of these dorks from Texas and elect one of them as candidate for PotUS.

If the American people are stupid enough to elect finally either of them, they deserve the consequences.

Milt Romney will be one helluva a lot harder to defeat ...

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By oddsox, November 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

Here’s that quote from “Audacity of Hope” on GW Bush’s first meeting w/Obama.

“You’ve got a bright future,” (Bush) said. “Very bright. But I’ve been in this town a while and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you’ve been getting, people start gunnin’ for ya. AND IT WON’T NECESSARILY JUST BE COMING FROM MY SIDE, YOU UNDERSTAND. FROM YOURS, TOO. Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip. Know what I mean? So watch yourself.”

(my emphasis)

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By kibitzer, November 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

@ Guillotine at 6:05am:
(1)To keep the debate honest, you are wrong about the JBS: (“the
archetypal ‘righter than Hitler’ American Movement”).  The JBS is against big
government period - either of the left or the right.  Too many on the left want
to demonize the JBS because they like big government - they just don’t like
that big stick being wielded by the moneyed elite, rather than themselves. 
Which brings up another comment of yours:

(2) “Their handlers, the richest of the rich already own them, and they know it -
both sides.”  I hope this refers to both sides of the political aisle; for that would
certainly be true.  Neither side in the current ‘order of things’ in U.S. 
government should be trusted: the moneyed elite are behind both sets of front
people, and their minions in Congress.

There is room for both the honest left and the honest right to come together in
this moment in time, and bring government in the U.S. back to being of, by,
and for The People.  (To undue the damage done by the Citizens United
decision of the SCOTUS, eg: a bipartisan issue if there ever was one.)  They
should seize the moment, and come up with a government of reformation. 
Once that has been accomplished, politics can return to its partisan positions. 
Although I would suggest that this Crisis is granting humanity a greater
Opportunity than that.  But that’s another issue.

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By berniem, November 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment


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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, November 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment

Still so much time for other developments.
Some very crazy scenarios still have time to play out. 

Any election discussion has to start w/Obama. 
It’s apparent there will be no improvement in jobs before the election, and that’ll be Issue #1 as it should. It’s full-on politics from now on & for now, Obama can watch the various Repubs getting voted off the island (brilliant humor on Leno last month—who writes for Obama?)
But as our economy worsens, Obama becomes a softer target, even from within his own party as GW Bush once warned him.

—Perry has a jobs record and money behind him.  Money gives him staying power. Through Iowa and New Hampshire at least.
—Cain won’t quit until it becomes plain he can’t win committed delegates—or proves that he can.
—Bachmann has made Palin a dim memory while carrying on with most of her beliefs.  New Hampshire will be her big challenge.
—Ron Paul forever in the ondeck circle.
—My imagination is limited.  Can anyone think of a way for Santorum to win the nomination?
—Huntsman back on the radar, most likely to beat Obama 1-on-1 according to Nate Silver’s 538 blog.  If only he got the chance.

November’s flavor of the month:  Newt Gingrich.
Would be great to watch Obama vs. Gingrich in a one-on-one debate.  Really, one for the ages.

Newt dressed down Pelley last week without breaking stride. 
(and anyone who doesn’t think the mainstream media holds a left bias should freeze Pelley at 0:32)

All that said:
It’s lookin’ more and more each day like it’s gonna be Romney vs. Obama next November.

Anybody else with an idea on 2012’s matchup from this far out?

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By Blackspeare, November 15, 2011 at 11:10 am Link to this comment

Reporter: Mr. Cain what is your view on Libya?

Cain: I repeat, I never touched that woman down there——oh wait——did you say Libya???

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By Guillotine, November 15, 2011 at 6:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I believe that you are all missing the point.  The reason that the Republican
candidate lineup is so idiotic is that they don’t have to be anything else.  They are
only going to be a figurehead, fed lines, and go to the makeup artist before they
recite a teleprompter speech on the air, and they know it.  They only have to “look
presidential”, a point proven by eight years of Bush.  Their handlers, the richest of
the rich already own them, and they know it - both sides.

What is telling, and should be a very big point for us, is as they jockey for the
position of “anointed one” they are pandering to the actual politics of their owners
for attention, and those politics are armed and repressive fascism.  After all the
Koch bros. daddy, who gave them their wealth, started the John Birch Society - the
archetypal “righter than Hitler” American Movement.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 15, 2011 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

Let’s see…With just a little research and a report “Are Taxpayers
Getting Their Money’s Worth? An Analysis of Congressional
Compensation,” we see the really bloody fact that members of
Congress make $174,000 per year, which, when benefits are
added in, actually turns into $285,000.  The latest whining
Congressman who thinks he ought to be paid more was Republican
Rep. Steve Southerland.  Sean Duffy, Republican Rep. from Wisconsin
and Renee Ellmers also a Republican Rep. from North Carolina whined
that even though millions would lose their paycheck if there were a
Republican-caused government shutdown, that she would need her
paycheck!  Not to seem too partisan in my critique, one Democrat,
Rep. Linda Sanchez, California, complained of living paycheck-to-
paycheck.  5 Yups.  Should we flood the floor with our tears at their
poverty?  Boo hoo According to Taxpayers Protection Alliance, these
delusional, uh yeah…underprivileged ummm… fat cats, earn 3-4
times the salary of the Average American Worker (The AAWs).

As a BHL (Bleeding Heart Liberal), I certainly hope with all my bleeding
heart the BBA (Balanced Budget Amendment) by the Super Committee will
offer a future of spending cuts that won’t touch Social Security and
Medicare with a ten-foot pole, and best of all…tax increases for the rich
that will go to provide jobs for the AAWs.  I’d be mighty happy.

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By jtenonefour, November 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment

Andrew Bacevich, the late Chalmers Johnson, and a few of the good
people over on certainly, to my mind, qualify as
conservative…they certainly aren’t bleeding heart liberals, grant me
that! And yet, I find myself agreeing with them MOST of the time! 

WHY is Bacevich being interviewed on “The Autograph with Susan
Modaress”? WHY did I read an article he wrote just this morning on
TRUTHOUT.ORG?!  Is “National Review” too busy propping up the
dreary field of candidates that Max Blumenthal points out only
make things EASIER for Mr. Obama every time they open their
mouth and/or their brains freeze?  If we don’t get the $$ out of
politics YESTERDAY, we are SO doomed as a nation…Hey, now that I
think about it…..O-O-O-OH SH…........!!!

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

Democrat politicians in Washington yes, liberals, no, share in lost
“intellectual moorings” and “moral compasses.”  Read just this a.m.
that 40% the politicians in Washington are millionaires while the
rest are close to it.  They earn $174,000 annually plus abundant
health care coverage and a bountiful pension, as well as extra perks
for travel and mail.  They also use their position to make investments,
it is scandalous and ought to be illegal.

Yet some of them are complaining they are not paid enough. The Ticket
Article, Aug 29, 2011, Chris Moody , “Are members of Congress paid enough?”
This article generated 42,017 comments!  Forty-two thousand?!!!??? 
Yeowie Kazowie

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By norman harman, November 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Dionne,

I’m surprised you still refer to these idiots as “conservatives.” The closest thing to
a “conservative” in the Republican Party (or Democratic for that matter) is Ron Paul
and his ridiculous philosophies about government and economics are stuck in the
19th century.

Perry, Cain, Bachmann, Romney, McConnel, Bohnior, et. al., aren’t “conservatives”
at all, they’re reactionary fascists.

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By gerard, November 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

—“conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass”..
  Only “conservatism”? ??? I thought it was THE nation-wide problem! Sure, maybe the conservataives, since they harbor most of the rich ninnies who sit on Wall Street balconies swishing cocktails. But the “liberals” share in lost “intellectual moorings” and “moral compasses”  too. Otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are at—a very fragile 99% to 1%.

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By NorCalChuck, November 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment

Sorry folks but I am of the mind that both parties are of a like mind . . . .
They are all made up of career politicians. Our government is designed to be served by “Citizen Political Activitics”.

Once you have served a term or two . . . No More please then you go back home and get a job. Maybe I should say “Get A Life.”

“We will have a good government as long as those that govern are effected by those laws that they pass. When those that are passing the laws are no longer effected by those laws then they will no longer pass good laws.”

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By Cliff Carson, November 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment


You are right on about Perry.

You missed the boat on Cain.

Well maybe you didn’t hear, as I did, when Cain in so many words praised the Koch brothers as the right and left hand of God.

The Koch brothers believe only worthy people should have rights and they shill that they are the only worthy people on this earth.

Anyone that is not aware of their politics let me enlighten you:  The Koch brothers proclaim that there should be no regulations whatsoever on Corporations and especially on their businesses.

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By felicity, November 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment

Today’s Republicans (I’m including the electorate)
seem to enjoy living and thinking in a fact-free
environment.  By now, we’ve practically
institutionalized stupidity - successfully launched
by Bush II, Perry seems determined to pick up where
George left off.

Finally, watching the debates is like watching what
happens in an intellectual-free zone.  Add to that
the fact that all politicians have a high bull-shit
quotient, and watching the debates becomes a very
painful way to spend an hour.

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By Mannapat, November 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why, oh why, didn’t one of the questioners ask Perry, “What does the Dept. of Commerce do?”  and “What does the Dept. of Energy do?”  The answers to those questions would have revealed even more than Perry’s fumble did. I’m betting he would have had another massive melt-down.

As the Newt gets squeezed closer and closer to the top, I’m getting an allergic reaction. I’m just hoping the FACT comes out that the Newt was ousted out of Congress for fraud.  He’s a scamer, and always has been.

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Queenie's avatar

By Queenie, November 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Brain freeze implies there is a brain. Mr. “my pecker is sho nuf dis big, man” Cain has maggots where the grey matter once rattled around.

They all are in the last throes of snakebite. Venom oozes from their pores and every other orifice making them dangerously toxic to all and everything within reach.

Those debates must be like watching Night of the Living Dead.

There must be a Monty Python skit in there somewhere - “I’m a conservative and I don’t care.
  I chop down trees and I foul the air
  in silk panties and a bra
  but I wear a nice suit to cover them up
  so you don’t know what I are.

  So lock up your daughters and your little boys
  ‘cause I’m really in the mood.
  and soon I’ll be visiting all you out there
  in your dear old neighborhood.

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By James M. de Laurier, November 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

E.J.Dionne,Jr.          11/14/2011
  Either by design or default,serious contemplation
of frivolous and idiotic rhetoric will ensure president
Obama a victory.
Thanking you for this opportunity to comment -
James M. de Laurier

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 14, 2011 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

Blueokie - You made me laugh out-loud….thanks for that!

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, November 14, 2011 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

I don’t know, mrfreeze, Marcus might order Michelle to strap on something
impressive for the big Saturday night “honoring”.

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By cclark81, November 14, 2011 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


LMAO.  Nicely and succinctly stated.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 14, 2011 at 5:38 am Link to this comment

This is what happens when one trades brains for tea.  It gets
squishier in there and one forgets one’s humanity.

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By Marc Schlee, November 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Herman Cain is a sexual pervert.




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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, November 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment

I’m sorry everyone, but I can’t help but make a juvenile comment about this story’s main picture. I believe another problem the Republican candidates have is the size of their pricks (demonstrated by Mr. Cain in the pic). It’s all about “that” my friends….(sorry to Bachmann for that….). Here’s is another unique problem: She’s sociopathic pond scum.

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