I must admit when the NeoCons burst on to the political stage I did not like them. Lamar Alexander with his stupid flannel shirt was the NeoCon candidate for 1996. In 1996 I was a vigorous supporter of Steve Forbes because of his flat tax proposal. Flat taxes do work and more than that, they work well. Look to Hong Kong for proof. Anyway, what did me in on NeoCons was an interview on cable TV with a woman who was a state chairperson for the Lamar Alexander Campaign. The woman was wearing a suit, I kid you not, that had been modified with large patches of Lamar's trademark flannel appliqued onto the shoulders and collar. On top of that stylishness, she was wearing large round earrings that had also been fashioned out of of Lamar's trademark flannel. I'm sure she thought she looked quite smart and very passionate about Lamar. Passionate in the right way, naturally. But she looked quite stupid and worse for Lamar, she proved his flannel shirt to be exactly what it was; a gimmick.
I'm a former advertiser. I can spot a gimmick a mile a way. Political philosophy is serious stuff. It shouldn't be boiled down to a boiled cotton flannel. The morning the Lamar campaign went down in New Hampshire and Lamar gave his concession speech in a blue suit jacket with all of the big brandname NeoCons lined up behind him (Bennett, Kristol, Barnes...) I watched, wondering if the NeoCons were being mugged more by the Republican party than by Reality.
Ever since those heady flannel days I've been very wary of NeoCons. Back then to be a NeoCon simply meant you were a Democrat or liberal that had been mugged by reality. It added immensely to your NeoCon credentials if you had gone to Harvard and studied under Harvey Mansfield. But over the years, it is obvious the defintion of NeoCon has mutated. What exactly is a NeoCon?
A column in today's Australian puts forth this definition:
"(Neo-conservatism has been described as "muscular Wilsonianism", or the export of democracy via a variety of aggressive means, including force. As former White House speechwriter David Frum has put it: "Neo-conservatives believe that America can no longer ignore what happens inside countries, like realists do: we must have a role in keeping bad stuff inside other countries from harming us.")"
Alright, so NeoCons are warmongers...
David Brooks in his January 6, 2004 NYTimes article, "The Era of Distortion" said the following about NeoCons and those who critcize them (David once worked for The Weekly Standard);
"In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish") travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.
"It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace. But correlation does not mean causation. All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently. Besides, if he wanted to follow the neocon line, Bush wouldn't know where to turn because while the neocons agree on Saddam, they disagree vituperatively on just about everything else. (If you ever read a sentence that starts with "Neocons believe," there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.)"
Ok, NeoCons must be Jewish and out to get their age old enemy, Arabs... But Bill Bennett is Catholic. Fred Barnes is a traditional Episcopalian. Dick Cheney is a Methodist, (I believe). Condelezza Rice is a Baptist....
And a few days ago, Mr. Panero pointed me in the direction of a new defintion of NeoCon from a British kid, and I do mean kid, who has been mugged by reality. From all reports this kid has no idea why he was mugged by reality so watch out. That is usually the type that ends up a Buddhist munching on Lotus leaves on some mountainside in tune with something higher than themselves. My favorite Sunday School teachers, a husband and wife team, went this route. The last time I saw them was at a posh Connecticut wedding, holding hands and wearing matching white kaftans with flower necklaces. But I digress...
From Bunny Smedley's blog, The Social Affairs Unit in an article by Douglas Murray comes his definition of NeoCon;
"In the face of popular misunderstanding and widespread incomprehension of the cultural and actual wars which we are now in, neoconservatism is, I believe, the only philosophy which can stand up against these threats – the moral and practical threats. For in both domestic and foreign policy, neoconservatism centres on natural right, moral clarity and the defense of - and exporting of - what is good in our culture.
Neoconservatives have been famously described by their godfather, Irving Kristol, as:
liberals who've been mugged by reality.
"Nowadays I would say that we are certainly more liberal in the classical sense of the term, than many old-style conservatives, but we are also more likely to look at the world with a realpolitik honesty which many conservatives – not to mention leftists – look on with suspicion. I would say therefore, that though we are classically liberal-minded, we look at the world through realist spectacles, seeing the world as it is, but all the time acting in the world to fashion it as we would like it to be.
"The ideal neoconservative moments are therefore those moments when our moral desires coincide with our realpolitik needs. Which is of course what makes Iraq the perfect neoconservative cause: the liberation of that country not only being a desirable thing in and of itself, but a vital – if continually challenging - project for regional and – I believe - global security."
I think Douglas Murray is closer on the mark to what a NeoCon is because he's the first to speak of those "moments when our moral desires coincide with our realpolitck needs." He mentions morality in connection with Neoconservatism. Now what exactly he means by morality we don't now yet. However, what bonds William Kristol, Bill Bennett, and Fred Barnes together is the combination of their morality and their politcal beliefs. (Yes, I know Bill plays the slots, but did he use your money to do so?) It is the morality of the Democratic Party that drove Irving Kristol, William Bennett and others out of it all those years ago. Morality has been largely ignored in the defintion of Neoconservatism for more than 10 years. Eventhough Bill Bennett edited twp tomes of moral tales for children
If Mr. Murrays definition sticks, and that's a big if, then maybe, horrors of horrors, Mr. P and I might just be NeoCons too. Which isn't fair because I was never silly enough to cast my lot with the Democratic Party. Mr. P was, but then he grew up. Very nicely I might add.