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Grand Old Party not so grand? David Stockman and David Klinghoffer advise a return to the past

After the party

Two Davids may not have been out to slay Goliath, but in biting commentaries they certainly nipped at the heels of the Republican Party. Clearly, the intent was not to tear down. Indeed, the commentaries, though quite different in tone and approach, both have an air of sadness and disappointment, rather than anger.

The Davids — Stockman and Klinghoffer — suggested in The Times (Los Angeles and New York varieties) that the Grand Old Party is not so grand, mainly because it’s failing to follow the ideals that made the party great in the past.

David Stockman, budget guru under President Reagan, decried as “unseemly” efforts by congressional Republicans to extend what he called “unaffordable Bush tax cuts.” Writing for the New York Times, Stockman said the party of his former boss had lost fiscal discipline:

The day of national reckoning has arrived. We will not have a conventional business recovery now, but rather a long hangover of debt liquidation and downsizing — as suggested by last week’s news that the national economy grew at an anemic annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter. Under these circumstances, it’s a pity that the modern Republican Party offers the American people an irrelevant platform of recycled Keynesianism when the old approach — balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline — is needed more than ever.

David Klinghoffer, writing in the Los Angeles Times, recalled the time when conservatives followed “urbane visionaries and builders of institutions,” such as William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus. But what, Klinghoffer asks, has become of conservatism?

Buckley's National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of "neocons" versus "paleocons." Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.

So what now? Will the Davids prompt some soul-searching on the right? Or will their arguments be tossed aside like the campaign poster of a losing candidate? 

Follow this link for Stockman’s commentary, follow this one to Klinghoffer’s commentary.

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Manuel Sachez sweeps up confetti at the end of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times.

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Well, when crazy looks like a winning strategy, crazy is what it will be.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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