Where to start? There was Fred Thompson, unveiling HIS flat rate tax plan, yet getting derailed as he griped about Fox News trying to "take down" his campaign. As if Fred's own staff hadn't done enough damage already in terms of taking down the Thompson ship.
We'll get back to Fred's tax plan in a minute.
Then, there was Bob Novak in a column headlined (at least in WaPo) "The False Conservative," eviscerating former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as a liberal in conservative's clothing. Novak minced no words: "Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans [of course, Novak is one of those!] know that he is a high-tax, protectionist advocate of big government and a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans."
More on the Novak column and just what it means to be a "conservative" or a "Republican" (or a "serious Republican") in yet another minute.
Finally, we have, "Romney and Giuliani Turn Negative in N.H." as reported in WaPo, making note that Giuliani has finally woken up and realized he can't let Romney win all the initial contests. Giuliani apparently intends to throw the gauntlet down in NH, and by golly that will mean going negative. [This, by the way, should be delightful news to McCain, who stands to benefit handsomely if Romney and Giuliani go at it barefisted in the Granite State.]
Well, it's about time. Expect the negativity to become the norm as the five man GOP field dukes it out in the coming weeks. (As it gets negative--on both sides, as Dems are headed that way too--we'll see all the more reason why it is an abomination to hold Presidential nomination contests at the beginning of January, forcing all that negativity into a season that should be about nativity.)
Now, what about that Thompson tax plan. Pretty silly really: he would have a "voluntary" flat tax. Call it the alternative maximum tax. Obviously, you'd pay your accountant to figure out which tax plan was cheaper--the "flat" tax, with no deductions, or the traditional tax, with deductions--and then pick the best one.
In a bit of understatement, the WSJ news story on Thompson's plan wryly states "Mr. Thompson's plan is missing a few key numbers, most notably a projection about how much it might cost the treasury in lost revenue." Ah, but say Thompson's advisors--don't worry, we've got it under control. They'll wring savings out of unspecified changes to social security and Medicare, not to mention all the "growth" his "plan" will cause. Oops. Bye, bye Florida--did you say social security and Medicare?
Thompson's plan is like those from most of the Republican candidates, including the one George W. Bush got through Congress: it promises something--big ol' tax cuts--for nothing: vague promises about reducing spending and all that extra growth. It will certainly sell to the Curmudgeon's former law partners, a bunch of multi-millionaires who, collectively, were about the biggest whiners you could imagine about their taxes, always crying--while driving their luxury cars, or lounging in their 10,000 square foot cribs, or vacationing in their exclusive resorts--about oh how much they have to pay in taxes. (Right next to complaining about oh how hard they work.) Anyway, good plan Fred--you can pander with the best of them. But don't suggest you're going to pay for it with cuts to the nation's senior citizens. Better to stick it to the immigrants.
And finally, we have Novak's hit piece on Huckabee. Who's Novak fronting for? McCain, maybe? But Novak's column--which parrots attacks on Huckabee from the "Club for Growth" crowd--raises some real questions about a growing schism in the Republican party.
Just what is a "conservative" these days, and is it the same as a "serious Republican?" It turns out that there are different types of conservatives. There are "fiscal conservatives"--those who believe in low taxes and small government. When the Republicans took over Congress, we learned that pretty much no one is a fiscal conservative anymore. You're either tax and spend (Democrats) or borrow and spend (Republicans). Everyone loves spending. But McCain and Giuliani at least appear to be fiscally conservative.
Then there are the social conservatives. Their litmus tests are abortion, gays, illegal immigrants, stem cells and "family values"--a buzz word for "Christian values." They don't worry so much about fiscal conservatism--indeed, that's one reason the Republican Congress turned out not to be very fiscally responsible. Huckabee's definitely after this crowd, along with the reincarnation of Romney and what's left of Thompson.
And don't forget libertarians. There's very few true libertarians around. Most people want the liberty to do what they like and ban you from doing what they don't like. But there are some libertarians left, and they're rallying around Ron Paul. It's hard to see how the social conservatives can even be in the same party as the libertarians: social conservatism is all about government telling people what they can't do--can't be gay, can't choose on abortions, can't do drugs, can't have sex before marriage, etc.
These distinctions have been around for a long time. It's interesting to see Novak try to label Huckabee--a true social conservative--as a "false" conservative, and, gasp, even a (dare we say it here) a "liberal." (Sorry Mr. Novak, but we liberals don't want him.)
Well now, all you Values Voters, the great Mr. Novak has spoken: you aren't even in the realm of "serious Republicans" nor are you "true conservatives."
If this keeps up, we can fully expect to see some serious third-party candidates by Spring.