Friday, August 7, 2015

Notes on the Republican Presidential Debate

Some will call it an act of consummate political courage: refusing at the onset of a presidential debate to rule out the chance of running as a third party candidate. When pressed, Donald Trump, as is his wont, did not back down. He did not seem to care that a third party candidacy would put another Democrat in the White House.

Others will call it a threat, worthy of a bully. Donald Trump opened the debate by saying: my way or I might well destroy you. In some quarters, people respond well to such bravado.

Couple that with a bullying retort to Megyn Kelly and you get a picture of an insecure candidate, whose petulance has somehow allowed him to amass a bevy of fawning admirers.

Some think it’s straight talk, a welcome reprieve from the stifling inanities of political correctness. And yet, there is no special virtue in being a rude and crude bully.

Sad to say, if your candidacy does not contain very much substance and if you have no real command of the issues, you have little other choice than to attack, demean and insult people. After the debate Trump called pollster Frank Luntz: “a low class slob” and retweeted a remark to the effect that Kelly was a “bimbo.”

If you have no class, at least pretend that you do.

If you are that thin skinned and that prone to become lathered up over a debate, then perhaps you should find another line of work. Trump was the one candidate who did not demonstrate the kind of self-assured confidence and command of his brief that one expects in a president. For that, he followers love him.

Go figure.

When Megyn Kelly called out Trump on his insulting statements about women, he first offered a great retort, suggesting that he was thinking about Rosie O’Donnell, but then he took out after Kelly, suggesting that if she didn’t like it, it was too bad. Later, Trump added, in a slightly whiny tone, that she had not been very nice to him.

In many cases, certainly in her question about Trump’s vulgar put downs of women, she was just quoting him.

Trump seems to operate by the law of the talion: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever happened to: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Surely, what Kelly said is a lot less nice than what opposition research will dig up about Donald Trump. He should be able to answer them without attacking the questioner.

In effect, the moderators were not especially nice to Mr. Trump. But, niceness has not been Trump’s stock-in-trade. He tends toward the vulgar and boorish, to say nothing of gross generalizations: all Mexican politicians are brilliant and all American politicians are stupid. If that is the case, why are so many Mexicans trying to leave their country and to come here. If that is the case, why is Mexico such a dismal failure? In addition, as Marco Rubio sagely noted, most of the people who have recently been coming here are Central Americans.

Anyway, Trump’s loyalty to the Republican Party being what it is, Kelly was also correct to ask him: “When did you actually become a Republican?”

As the old saying goes: if you can’t handle Megyn Kelly, what makes you think that you can deal with world leaders?

Those who believe that Trump is well placed to be a conservative standard bearer might note that the National Review has been among his staunchest critics. Kevin Williamson’s take-down—linked on yesterday’s Trump post—was far more brutal than anything coming from the left.

This morning Rich Lowry comments on the debate spectacle:

From the very beginning you could tell that Trump on a debate stage was going to play much differently than Trump has the last several weeks. It’s one thing to flirt with a third-party run in statements to the press and another to say you’re considering it while participating in a Republican presidential debate. Same with bragging about buying off politicians, and taking advantage of bankruptcy procedures. He, of course, couldn’t answer about his evidence that the Mexican government is pushing people over the border. And his slap at Megyn Kelly was a classic case of not knowing your audience. The last month has been Trump making the rest of the field look small; tonight was the opposite.

He, of course, couldn’t answer about his evidence that the Mexican government is pushing people over the border. And his slap at Megyn Kelly was a classic case of not knowing your audience. The last month has been Trump making the rest of the field look small; tonight was the opposite.

Lowry concludes:

The biggest winner? The Fox moderators who were prepared, tough, and fair.

The moderators are professional journalists. No one should have been surprised that they acquitted themselves as such. The leftist slander of Fox journalists as Republican toadies is so entrenched that people are surprised when they act professionally. No one should be.

Some conservative commentators criticized the Fox moderators for their tough questioning, but nearly all of the candidates were prepared to address them. The overall quality of the Republican candidates is exceptional; unfortunately, they are, for now, being overshadowed by Trump.

In New York Magazine Gabriel Sherman wrote about the conflict between Trump and Fox News:

Having spent the past six weeks rhetorically slashing at his Republican rivals, it makes perfect sense that Donald Trump would eventually run out of targets and find himself in a war with the party’s media arm: Fox News. At the GOP primary debate Thursday night in Cleveland, Trump’s on-stage clashes with the Fox moderators, and his post-debate complaints about the network’s treatment of him, were among the most talked about storylines to emerge from the Quicken Loans Arena.

If your take-away from the debate is that the moderators were not very nice to you, you do not look like a winner. You look like a whiner.

Commenting on Brett Baier’s opening question, question that created a moment of great political drama, Sherman notes:

The audience howled and hissed. Trump glared back like he was negotiating a thorny contract dispute. Whether Ailes scripted this or not, it was a triumph. While Trump may see politics as a negotiation, Ailes surely knew that the thousands of Republicans packed into the stands do not. So far, Trump has succeeded by presenting himself as the anti-politician who would save the country. Tonight, he looked like a spoiler.

Trump is very good at the media. After all, he is a brilliant marketer. But, Roger Ailes is very good himself. Whoever scripted that opening moment got the better of Donald Trump. When the audience boos you, it’s not a victory… even if Ann Coulter thinks it is.

Frank Bruni should not have been surprised by the Fox moderators, but he was honest enough to give them great credit for a job well done:

On Thursday night in Cleveland, the Fox News moderators did what only Fox News moderators could have done, because the representatives of any other network would have been accused of pro-Democratic partisanship.

They took each of the 10 Republicans onstage to task. They held each of them to account. They made each address the most prominent blemishes on his record, the most profound apprehensions that voters feel about him, the greatest vulnerability that he has.

It was riveting. It was admirable. It compels me to write a cluster of words I never imagined writing: hooray for Fox News.

Bruni accepts that the network was trying to produce enough drama to keep the nation’s eyes glued to their screens. And yet, there was more to it:

But Fox accomplished something important. It prevented the Republican contenders from relying on sound bites and hewing to scripts that say less about their talents and more about the labors of their well-paid handlers.

And the questions that the moderators asked weren’t just discomfiting, humiliating ones. They were the right ones, starting with a brilliant opener: Was there any candidate who was unwilling to pledge support to the eventual Republican nominee and swear off a third-party run?

The questions may have been discomfiting, but I did not find them humiliating. They were focused, direct and brought out issues that will certainly be used by any Democrat in a general election.

Do Republicans want a candidate who does not believe in an abortion exception for rape, incest and the life of the mother? Scott Walker does not. When he was pressed on the point, he did not back down, even when he was asked about the possibility of sacrificing a woman’s life.

Walker said that there were other alternatives, which might be true. But, you know and I know that, if he is the candidate, this issue will very likely sink his candidacy. Remember Todd Akin….

Bruni believes that, from the onset, Trump was unmasked and that the rest of the debate focused on substantive disagreements and probing questions about candidate records:

And thus, in the first minute of the debate, Trump was undressed and unmasked, and he stood there as the unprincipled, naked egomaniac that he is. He never quite recovered. His admission of political infidelity was the prism through which all of his subsequent bluster had to be viewed.

By putting the candidates on the defensive and on edge, Fox created the mood for an exchange as raw and revealing as one between Christie and Rand Paul over national security, federal eavesdropping and the collection of personal data.

That back-and-forth was debate platinum, because it was simultaneously fiery and substantive, impassioned and important, a perfect distillation of the two sides of an essential, necessary argument.

I would agree with Bruni and with Lowry and with the Wall Street Journal that Trump lost. Why else would he have been up at 3:00 a.m. tweeting insults. Of course, many of us have been wrong about this for so long, that we ought to stop predicting it.

Bruni offers this assessment of Trump’s debate performance:

I do think that Trump lost: He said nothing, not one syllable, that infused his candidacy with any of the gravitas that it sorely needs, and there was something pouty and petulant about his whole performance. Some of his rivals managed, even under the Fox fire, to look grateful to be there and to enjoy themselves, at least a bit. Marco Rubio did.

As it happens Rubio did exceptionally well, as did Ted Cruz. The latter did not receive as much attention and Bruni forgot that he was there, but Cruz is exceptionally smart and exceptionally talented.

I suspect that a lot of people barely noticed that Jeb Bush was there, either. His answers were too defensive to make him appear like a leader.

And of course, the evening’s most impressive zinger came from Mike Huckabee. Not for nothing has Huckabee been noted as a great communicator:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot on a person who has been very high in the polls, who doesn’t have a clue about how to govern, a person who has been filled with scandals and could not lead. And of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

As for who does have a clue about how to govern, the predicate does describe a number of Republican candidates, especially those whose candidacies are based on their performance as government officials.  Somehow or other conservatism should have some relationship to experience and competence. It's not all about good ideas or bad behavior.

Everyone was impressed by Carly Fiorina’s performance at the earlier debate, but there is no chance that she could be nominated or elected. And there is no real chance that she could govern the nation effectively.

Of those who are running on achievement the strongest was obviously John Kasich, a man who did well enough to move on to the next round. Kasich made himself sound like a moderate alternative to Jeb Bush and many people believe he succeeded at that.

Allow Bruni the last word:

Candidates should have to convince us. They should square their slogans with their records, and that’s what Fox made them do. On this night, the network that pampers Republicans provoked them instead. It was great television, and even better politics.


Stirge said...

I'm sure you are glad you could join in the takedown of Donald Trump. The man is no politician, but he is bringing up issues that for too long have been swept under the rug. And we are finally starting to talk about them. The man speaks his mind and talks for a lot of people in this country who are frustrated with the mincing, fawning spineless elite.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

Originally I was against this unexpectedly early debate, before the ordinary state-by-state process could seriously begin, but now I see there is a purpose. Basically there are many good candidates who might run for president, but most politicians whether as governors or senators or citizens are not high-profile nationally, and except for running for president, we really have no national offices to get everyone's attention.

But I can see Fox's primary failure was in setting the 10-candidate limit on a first debate, and humiliating the second-tier candidates by letting them debate to a nearly empty auditorium. I'm not sure what process should define inclusion in a debate, but a national poll clearly isn't the right test.

You might even allow inclusion by the number of donations to a campaign, since those are legally regulated. Getting 3 billionaires to give you 1 million each, isn't a good sign, but $5 donations from 10,000 people would look pretty impressive. Has Trump announced how many donors he's had? It probably would be embarressingly small.

But let's pretend Trump actually got his certified 10,000 small donations to qualify for my imaginary debate, what are we to make of that? Why do people want him in the debate? We know congress has a low approval rating, but governors are usually well loved, right, and we have 9 of them!

The apparent logic is that ordinary politicians are cautious creatures, and they'll also change their message between primary to general election, but you might believe Trump is himself, and has no plans to change his message based on who is listening.

And on that ground as well, I can imagine some of the people who are supporting him now might be thinking "Trump or no one", so sure there's not an honest politician to be found, and if Trump doesn't run, they'll stay home and not vote. So if such determined voters exist, should Trump give them what they want, give them a protest vote, hopeless to win, but a message to the establishment, that something has to change?

Myself I always thought new politicians should pick an established party, but after being elected a couple times, they should just run as an independent, even if they may choose to caucus with one party or another, because that shows they are truly independent, and not puppets for the party leaders (or their paymasters.)

People like Trump might as well choose to run independently, but obviously gain credibility by being willing to debate without necessarily having allegiance to that party.

Of course we know the flaw in this form of integrity, as Nader or Perot showed as well, running third party often helps the party LEAST like you win. But this fact is not necessary.

For example, I suggested that states stop being "winner take all", saying the candidate who get 50.001% of the vote (or less in a 3-way race), should NOT get 100% of the electors, but a proportional number of them.

So in Minnesota's 10 electors, if the vote is Democrat Clinton 35%, Republican Walker 31%, Libertarian Trump 21%, Socialist Sanders 10%, Independent Nader 3%, the electors assigned would be 4 for Clinton (rounding up), 4 for Walker (rounding up), 2 for Trump (rounding down), and 0 for Sanders and Nader.

So if all 50 states did this, we'd have an actual debate in the electoral college. Electors wouldn't just be symbolic, but sovereign representatives for each candidate, and they could debate and compromise to their own individual conscience towards the candidate they decide can best represent the country.

Then Trump wouldn't have to be a spoiler, and after its clear he can't win the electoral college, his electors could help pick the next president, as you'd want the process to do.

Maybe we're just not mature enough for such things any more. What if the electors were bad people? We'd still need to have 535 citizens in the country with some integrity of course.

KCFleming said...

Trump would be no more incompetent than Obama, but less destructive.
But we do not need a trainwreck running things at the moment, even a non-Marxist one.

Trump's rise certainly demonstrates anger about what a banana republic we've become.
And he's not far from the kind of leader you get in BRs.
Some people I know thought his "Rosie" answer to Kelly was hilarious, because they hate PC so much.
I thought it was a gotcha question more suited to MSNBC.

It would have been easier to unmask his ignorance and fecklessness by asking a difficult question that required some thought, forethought, study and experience not gleaned from TV.

I fear we're doomed regardless of who gets elected, but I fervently pray I am terribly wrong.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Fair analysis. Makes sense.

Lowry: "The biggest winner? The Fox moderators who were prepared, tough, and fair."

This is nonsense. I thought the prime time lineup of Baier, Kelly and Wallace were a disgrace, which is par for the course with journalists. It was a litany of gotcha questions, with Kelly and Wallace wanting to be the story. The atmosphere and showbiz gave a feeling of ESPN College Gameday. I love Bret Baier, I do not like Trump, and I thought Baier's first question was a horrible way to start the event. In fact, the normally steady, engaging, fun Baier seems to go into hiding at these big FNC events, and his doppelgänger comes out blazing with vanity, overkill and a game show host bearing. Frank Luntz ended up getting in the mud with Trump, which is stupid because Luntz should know better and wait out Trump's trajectory of self-destruction. Hemmer and MacCallum were excellent in the earlier debate.

And another thing: who gives a crap what Frank Bruni thinks?

The Republican agenda was on the defensive all night, with the interviewers effectively demanding that the candidates justify themselves and their "Republicanism." That will NEVER happen at a Democrat debate. Ever. I'm not complaining of "It's not fair!" media bias, or FNC is in the tank for Democrats, the GOP Establishment, or whatever other conspiracy theories there are. Instead, I think all these conversations begin with an affirmative nod to the foundational premise, the entire media narrative about Republicans: old, stodgy, warhawk white guys who don't give a $#%& about anybody else. That Republicans aren't "cool," or with the "in" crowd, or up in the latest, greatest thing. The "War on Women" is effectively an operating assumption throughout the media, including FNC last night. You think Hillary will get a gotcha question on Common Core? Will anyone demand that Democrats explain their standing on abortion? Will the Democrats ever have to justify their lock-step alignment with teacher's unions? How about the idiocy of the Iran deal? No, it's all a given. Only the Republicans have to defend themselves. When was the last time a Democrat was called on to defend a given platform position? And I mean defend, not explain or verify compliance. Hillary's defensiveness is earned... she is being accused of wrongdoing, but she's not taken to task for her beliefs. I doubt she ever will be.

Bottom line: you can't go on offense when you're always on defense. This is why Ronald Reagan was so refreshing: he didn't believe the media premise about what Republicans (and average Americans, for that matter) are. "Morning in America" was about pride.

Let's be clear: If Trump runs third party, the election is over. Done. Kaput. Finished. Everyone knows it. But Bret doing the childish "show of hands" thing out of the gate to start last night was as unfortunate as it is undignified. That is, if there is any dignity in politics. Suffice to say I was disappointed with the tone.

Regarding Carly Fiorina, she is on the ascent. I believe she won the night. The whole night, if you watched both debates. She is a credible candidate and electable. She's be formidable against Clinton, whether as the nominee or getting a VP nod. She doesn't shriek or sound shrill like most female candidates, having an even, sober dignity like Margaret Thatcher. It's refreshing. And she doesn't buy the feminist Democrat narrative about what it means to be a woman. She confidently calls it bunk.

Rubio is very good on his feet, and sensible. I must confess: I don't understand the fascination with Cruz... he seems phony, like an actor. I can't believe anyone can talk that way naturally. If it's polish, it's too shiny. If it's sincere, it's painful.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Stirge @August 7, 2015 at 6:20 AM:

I do not like Donald Trump as a person, media figure, or candidate for president.

And I think what you said is spot on.

The media is falling over themselves to slay and stick a fork in Trump so we can go back to not talking about the issues that matter to normal people. His candidacy is highly disruptive to the prevailing media narrative about... well, just about everything.

My hope is that a smart Republican is going to realize Trump's usefulness and latch onto some of these "heretofore unmentionable" issues and gain some traction with them, in a more sophisticated, thoughtful, humble way. And it won't be Jeb Bush.

So much fear amidst this Trump, Trump, Trump news wave. I'm hoping someone will learn to harness what Trump's tapped into. Sure, there's some anger, but I suspect it's because real American contributors (in every sense of the word) have felt caged-up for years now, watching what's created this abysmal labor participation rate. People want America to be strong again, and move beyond this nice, phony, politically correct culture we find ourselves in. People feel held back, sneered at and counted out. It's like the 1970s all over again. It's a desire to move out of this malaise before we institutionalize (1) European-style dependence on government by expanding entitlements, (2) Chinese-style economic corruption through crony capitalism, and (3) Soviet-style central planning through a regulatory leviathan. Oh, and by the way... we can't afford these things, but keep running up the national credit card and squandering the next generation's opportunities.

Americans want to feel alive again!

Baloo said...

I thought the questioning was fairly lame, and Kelly's feminist blather was the worst. Trump slapping her down was the high point IMO. My whole take here:

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Let's retain some perspective. The media,especially the msm, loves Donald Trump. He's the best thing that has happened to the Hillary campaign. The longer he stays in the race the more he damages the Republican party. All the questions that were asked of him would be asked by the msm, if they wanted to hurt him and the party. Trump's statements would be used by opposition researchers during the campaign, roughly as Todd Akin's ideas were used to sink a senate candidate in Indiana. You should know what you are buying before you buy it. If a candidate has a sketchy history, it comes along with the package. Note well, the people who are the most strongly opposed to Trump are writing in places like National Review and the WSJ editorial page. Are they not sufficiently conservative? Doesn't their opposition to Trump suggest that he is not the best thing for conservativism... but probably the worst?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

See also Noah Rothman on the Commentary site:

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Stuart Schneiderman @August 7, 2015 at 2:07 PM:

I don't know if you were responding to me, but I do not view Trump as a viable candidate, would never vote for him, and do not want him to get the nomination. That said, I believe he is useful in challenging and bypassing the media "censors" and countering important, politically correct MSM narratives about who Republicans are, who normal Americans are, and the consequences of an unaccountable elite that sets the agenda. There will always be Todd Akins, but the media make the choice on what lines or positions get portrayed as "crazy" or "wacky." Trump moves through all that. And it'll be a disaster if he's the nominee or runs as a third party. It's like Ross Perot all over again, but with a media hurricane around it. I think I do have perspective on this, as I think Trump's ability to get touchy, non-PC issues out there is helpful to a skilled GOP candidate who can take those directly to the public in a way that they might have not considered before. That skilled candidate will appear reasonable and above the fray, while talking about the issues that matter. There's a lot on the line with a Hillary presidency. A lot.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Trump is at 26% and in the lead for the same reason Gilmore is at 0% and in last: name recognition. That's it. Trump will not win the nomination, but he has advantages and is useful if we can"steal" his mojo. We can't make him go away and we can't win if he goes third party or independent. So now what? Complaining about what an in-genteel buffoon he is is hardly going to help. Let's harness some of the energy and use it for good. That's all I'm saying...

Anonymous said...

This unrelated link (Psychology Fights for its Soul):

begins with an oxymoronic reference to the American Psychological Association (APA) as a scientific organization.

I refer to the guy who confuses his net worth with his self worth, and puts his name on large penis-shaped objects, as little Donald Trumpy. This is the stereotype my female sociology teacher described when she talked about the meaning of phallic symbols.

Unfortunately for Republicans the conservative and angry reactionary factions of the party are now asserting way too much influence in their primaries. Trumpy has only amplified this problem making it harder for any Republican to win a national election.

Dennis said...

I watched both of the debates and came away thinking the format, even though at times it seemed biased, was a good one meant to challenge the candidates. These questions were "kind" compared to what the democrats and their fellow travelers will emphasize. If one is going to stand in the arena they need to be prepared for the harshness of political combat. Politics is not basket weaving or bean bags. Better to face these questions in a forum that allows them to develop responses that demonstrates a good knowledge of the various issues and also shows an ability to have compassion for others without adopting their ideas. Something the Left is wholly incapable of accomplishing. Kasich's response was an excellent example that denoted that a belief in marriage being between a man an a woman does not mean that one does not have a love/compassion for a child or another human being. Simple "dislike the sin but love the sinner.
In some ways the 7 people who did the first debate, even though they did not have an audience with which to interact, had I felt, a more substantive chance to define who they were and what they stood for as a candidate without having Trump suck all the air out of the debate. For me I was really impressed with Carly Fiorina. She was concise, forthright and intelligent in her answers. For the first time I see a woman candidate that did not use the fact she was a woman as a talking point. The trouble I see with many female and minority candidates is that they seem to forget they were elected by a wide variety of people who deserve their representation. Carly Fiorina appeared to be someone I could trust to represent me and not become a woman's or minority issues representative. I vote for the person who represents me.
A number of the first debate individuals helped to demonstrate a wealth of knowledge and ability and served to highlight their qualifications and the weaknesses that they need to address if they are going to become a viable candidate. Some did not do as well as I thought they should have done.
The next group of debaters I thought did a good job of representing themselves and exhibited a bit more passion. The stand outs for me were Rubio, Carson, Kaisich, Cruz and Trump because of his ability to stand his ground. I would suggest that Trump uses the threat of a third party run as leverage agains't the cabal that is the republican establishment. A Hillary win would allow her to possibly select 3 Supreme Court justices which would/could be a disaster for Trump so I discount his desire to run from a third party position. Just maybe Trump will prove to some of these candidates to have the courage of their convictions. Most people want someone who will stand they can trust to stand up for their beliefs.
Conservatism is what this country needs to move us away from a stifling progressivism that does damage to the culture, the freedom that most people need to succeed and has the underlying philosophy that there is a cadre of people who are better than others and only they have the right to control how life should believed, what people can possess, et al.
There is always more than a yes or no answer to a problem. Hopefully the next president can think enough out of the box to see that the way to defeat the Iranians, terrorists , et al is to take away the ability to wage war agains't us and that starts with money and utilizing natural resources such as oil and natural gas to bankrupt them. Similar to Reagan using "Star Wars" to bankrupt the USSR. I don't know about you, but I do not want to relive the days of Mutually Assured Destruction which I think Obama is slowly creating.

Anonymous said...

Reagan increased the deficit to build up the military. He sold this as Supply Side economics. However deficit spending to boost the economy out of a recession already has a name: Keynesian stimulus. Profits and financial savings in society go up when the government deficit spends as a matter of accounting logic in the national accounts and central bank flow of funds accounts.

I'm not sure the country needs Conservatism, because it is not clear to me what that means. I have been reading some of these essays by Russell Kirk in a first effort to understand how people come to be identified as Conservatives:

I like the essay on the Inhumane Businessman. I am also reading the essay What Are American Traditions? There is a book, More Than a Numbers Game, which explains the development of modern accounting customs during the industrial revolution which gave rise to the era of the giant national and multinational corporations while building semi-automated mining operations, factories, and railroads. So the rise of Inhuman Businessmen is partly caused by transformations of the industrial revolution.

Based on some of the Ten Conservative Principles, when applied to continuity of diversity in the natural environment and society, and coupled with prudence that we should not perform experiments in man-made climate change, I would consider myself a Conservative. Of course contemporary Conservatives seem to be more obsessed with the game of attacking "liberals" and "progressives" then they are with understanding how mankind might live humanely in harmony with nature and each other on a planet which was forged via infinite abundance and yet we find ourselves forced to live within the boundaries of finite resources. The price of sunlight and air is zero. Water is a bit more expensive and clean air is naturally abundant yet coal burning monkeys make clean air more scarce!

Dennis said...

The comments actions and the responses might be instructive.

Kirk, at least to me, tried to make it understood that there is no one mode of Conservatism. The definitions of conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Libertarian, et al has changed so much, given academe desire to appear middle of the road vice extreme, that simply calling anyone any of the above is confusing. I am or have been what used to be a classical liberal, but find myself being called a neocon or conservative. I believe that Kirk had more of a "Burkean" leaning.