Partisan liberals might consider it an oxymoron, but there is such a thing as a conservative intellectual. Indeed, I used to be one. ... I can't grasp how an intelligent, well-read man or woman, regardless of ideological commitments, could watch the Republican debate in Milwaukee on Tuesday night and not come away disgusted. I certainly did. It was a familiar feeling. I don't just mean the obvious stuff. ... ... And neither do I merely mean the dumpsters full of dubious assertions that are by now so deeply embedded in conservative ideology that every candidate tosses them out without making even the most cursory effort to bolster them with facts. ... Actually, that's more than enough to leave me pretty disgusted. And yet, at Tuesday's debate, there were so many other things that got me going more than usual. I'm talking about specific policy proposals that amounted to nothing more than transparent nonsense. ... Here are three concrete examples from Tuesday's debate of Republican candidates doing their best PT Barnum imitation. 1. More than once in the debate, Carly Fiorina proposed reducing the federal tax code — not the forms ordinary citizens use to file their taxes, but the body of laws that govern taxation in the United States — to three pages. ... 2. Ted Cruz took the usual supply-side happy-talk about tax cuts producing massive economic benefits to new, unusually concrete levels, claiming that instituting a 10 percent flat personal income tax and a 16 percent value-added tax, and eliminating the payroll tax, the "death tax," the corporate income tax, and the IRS, and the departments of Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development, would lead "every income group" to "see double-digit increases…of at least 14 percent." ... 3. Then there's foreign policy — a subject on which every single candidate aside from Rand Paul endorses what journalist Matthew Yglesias once aptly described as The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, which amounts to the view that, like the second-tier superhero, the United States can accomplish anything it wishes in the world, provided it displays sufficient willpower. ... Since September 11, conservative reflection on foreign affairs has retreated into magical thinking. Where, I wonder, are Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates, and the other grown-ups who once ran Republican foreign policy? ... The Republican Party's 2016 presidential candidates have descended into vapid, puerile bleating. Conservative intellectuals are better than this, smarter than this. The time has come for them to speak up and call the GOP field what it is: ignorant, insulting, and dangerous.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment