Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bruce Bartlett's Long, Strange Journey

I'm a little surprised that Bruce Bartlett  is getting so  much buzz for his Historia Calamitatum, detailing his long, slow ascent from conservative hackery into a more  independent pundithood.  Not that I mind; I'm a big Bartlett fan and  regular reader of his bloggy Facebook page where he links to a lot of great stuff, including his own.  Though I do think it is time for Bruce to can it with the bitterness, already.  As Barbara Bush so wisely said about the late election: --they won, deal with it.  Except, of course,  Bruce, that you won.  You've got your life, your reputation, a lot more prestige and visibility than you might have had otherwise.  And if you took a financial hit--isn't the real point that  if you choose not to play the whore, well god bless, but you can hardly expect to find $100 bills on the night table?

Anyway--surprised only because I thought most of this was common knowledge by now.  But maybe the essay just links in with my last point: maybe there's something Kublerrossian afoot here, and writing the essay was just one more step on the road back.

Speaking as one regular reader, let me review the bidding a bit: I thought his fisking of Bush administration tax policy was a huge breath of fresh air (though I think it cost me at least one conservative friend).  Of The New American Economy, I wrote at the time that it was "an odd mix of clear thinking and muddle."  This might have been too harsh.  I thought he was marvelously clear-sighted on a lot of things, and I thought his characterization of Keynes was bang-on.  I found his treatment of supply-side  a bit like Clinton's admission of his early dope use--candid in a way but equivocal, as if he hadn't really come to terms with it (I suspect perhaps he might be able to deal with it better today).  As I indicate  here, I thought the recent tax book was superb.

There's one more and I did not read it: Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past.  I skipped it partly because I don't think there is anything "buried" here: anybody who had a decent 11th-grade American history class knows that the Democrats were the party of racism and reaction before, during and after the Civil War, all the way through to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  But here we have a fallacy of false concreteness: the fact is the party of racist reaction did not die: it simply decamped to the Republicans--same policies, same demographics, often enough even the identical people, while the remaining Democrats have redefined their entity free of a great burden.

Bartlett, in any event, has emerged as a superb commentator-analyst with a range of policy perspectcives many of which would get him pitched out of a GOP convention, with the encouragaement of a couple of burly security guards.  He does keep insisting, loudly, that he is not a Democrat, no sirree, don't even think of tainting me with that lot.  I feel for him here: I'm always a little ginchy about identifying as a Democrat myself, though I rarely find any better place to go.   Still, perhaps it is time for him to lay out a full-scale positive agenda.  What, exactly, is his program these days and, perhaps more exactly, how does it differ from those Democrats he insists are not his brethren?  Or maybe this is the subject of his next book.

Afterthought: Bartlett is also, of course, just one of a chorus of bruised and surprised former voices of conservatism who have found themselves, generally to their utter consternation, pointed straight to the kitchen door.  At this point I should think we should start being surprised at the surprise.  It should be clear to anybody by now that this is a realm where money talks and free spirits walk, and had better keep on walking.

But consider this: in the universe of conservative bazilllionaires --there really are a lot of them now, not so?--you'd think there might be one who had a genuine interest in free-spiritedness and would stake these guys on a long leash?  No, pardon, guess not, silly me.

Update:  On his FB page, Bruce denies the charge of "bitter," but says he would cop to "grumpy." Perhaps "bitter" is too strong, but it's more than "grumpy."  He sounds way too much like the guy in the bar who won't quit telling you what a shrew his ex-wife was.  Bruce, listen to one who loves you: get over it.

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Allan Connery said...
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