Monday, February 23, 2009

MORAL DEGENERATE. I've been reading around the morality conservatives this evening. I'll spare you the details, but they basically say that everything is rotten and it's up to conservatives to admit that capitalism alone hasn't saved us and we need some sort of public education program to give people values, perhaps out of William J. Bennett books, after which they will behave like Reagan Republicans, only this time with feeling.

A prime example is Matthew Continetti, who started out as a student Republican Iraq War fan, and later became aware that conservative Republicans were not entirely what they said they were. Nonetheless he continued to write for the Weekly Standard in defense of timeless conservative principles such as electing Republicans to prevent liberal weenie judges, electing Republicans so we can invade Iran, and just plain electing Republicans.

Now in the Weekly Standard Continetti writes like man who, finding himself out of other options, must appeal to his readers' tender memories of Bible School. He writes that the American people are weak, depraved by Paris Hilton and A-Rod and, yes, some Wall Street tycoons and yes, yes, even President Bush -- which we must take as a grand concession, though Bush is in Dallas where he can do no one, least of all the Party he lately led, any harm.

Reagan, of course, was an unqualified success; he "instituted public policies that spurred the economy, forced the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and reinstilled national pride among Americans." His economic miracle had nothing to do with the financier-rentier culture that has recently come a-cropper. That was all because of Fannie Mae and steroids and Michael Phelps' bong, which somehow have had a more powerful destabilizing effect on us than Keith Hernandez' cocaine habit, Porky's, and the Savings and Loan scandals of the golden age.

Imagining the crowd may be with him, Continetti makes some soothing noises about Obama before announcing that he must be fought tooth and nail -- but not on partisan grounds; only in defense of America's moral regeneration.

And what will be the agency of our regeneration? Why, "responsibility" -- we must create a new Age of it. Michael Phelps must be responsible not only for swimming fast in quadrennial contests, but also for being a "role model," because "role models have responsibilities." The American people, also, must take responsibility, but not the weak, Democrat sort of responsibility to which Obama alluded in his inaugural address, because that "will encourage the individual to turn to government instead." Where, then, will this new sense of responsibility come from?
Where to begin? Start with some exemplars of decency, professionalism, and ability. US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III riveted the nation with his dramatic crash-landing into the Hudson River. -Sullenberger's experience and stoicism meant that not a single life was lost during the dramatic and dangerous touch-down. It is no surprise that he has been lionized in the days since. When everything else seems to be crashing all around us, Sullenberger is a rock of common sense and soft-spoken modesty. Imagine--just imagine--if the men and women who represent us in Congress shared his character?
You've tumbled to it by now. The Republicans have totally fucked up, but there is some public figure of indeterminate political affiliation who has done something right, and by God that's what the new conservatism is all about. He's like -- let's see -- he's like the 1980 Olympic hockey team! He's like -- give me a minute -- Lee Iacocca! He's like, he's like, he's like -- the crew of the Challenger! They slipped the surly bonds of earth, and so can we!

Perhaps this, rather than Michael Phelps' drug use, outrages you. But come now, we are liberals, and full of understanding. We can no more chastise Continetti for his behavior than we would chastise a chimpanzee for masturbating in his cage. Why wouldn't he try this ancient scam on the public, and why wouldn't other rightwing moral scolds (like Ross Douthat -- who also, hilariously pleads for "an intellectually healthy American Right that's influenced by Rod Dreher and the Cato Institute") aid and abet him? It's not as if they had any real morals.

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