WHITEFISH POINT, MICH.
I have just cleared the “Soo” locks of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., passing from the lower Great Lakes to Lake Superior. In fact, I am now anchored just off a beautiful lighthouse on Lake Superior. Yes, you have guessed correctly. I am in a boat, a cruise ship, in fact, known as the Yorktown, possibly in honor of the famed battle that ended our War for Independence, though possibly for some other achievement. I shall not hazard the question to our extremely busy captain. He has enough on his mind, and I am told these waters are treacherous. My life jacket is never far away.
This is the first American Spectator cruise undertaken with the National Review. The editors and writers at the National Review are old hands at conducting cruises, and so I am watching them closely for instruction and wise counsel. How is a landlubber like me to conduct myself on a cruise? When do I put on my life jacket? Do I wear it at meals? When do we abandon ship? When do I speak? John Miller, the national correspondent for NR, and Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor for NR, are sage mentors and very knowledgeable speakers. Along with them are AmSpec writers Grover Norquist, John Wohlstetter and John Fund, whom AmSpec shares with NR. Giving even more heft to our discussions of politics is George Gilder, an expert on practically everything.
Then there is the audience. They are erudite readers of both magazines, joined by a leavening of bystanders along for the lectures and the sun. It is cool here on Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes and the deepest by far. Deep water makes for cool temperatures. The rest of the country may be sweltering, but here we are cool and relaxed. Great transport ships ply these waters with iron ore and other commodities as we hold forth, basically on politics. If our bystanders have learned anything, they have learned that we conservative readers of AmSpec and NR believe that the election this autumn is a mere formality. President Obama is destined for one term. President Mitt Romney is destined for two. Another way of putting it is that liberalism is dead.
I got the proceedings off to a brisk start by delivering a lecture on the topic of my recent book, “Liberalism Is Dead.” In policy terms, the stealth socialist in the White House has gone well beyond liberalism and spent money like a Greek prime minister. He has governed like a particularly extravagant European socialist, nationalized a sixth of the economy (health care), and threatened the financial system (with Dodd-Frank). He thinks America is just another failed colonial state. He is headed for defeat.
I wondered how this would play with the audience and with our speakers. As it turned out, it played out just fine. Except for my admiration for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decision two weeks ago on Obamacare, the assembled celebrated my optimism. I expected as much from Grover. He has for years struck an optimistic chord, even in grim moments, and I think his optimism will be borne out. But even a “confirmed pessimist” like Mr. Nordlinger was sunny. On a panel whose rubric ran “Can Romney Win?” Jay said Mr. Romney would win “big.” He said that a majority of voters would ask themselves the question, “Would you like to rehire Obama?” The answer was thumpingly no. This president would be retired on his job performance alone. Mr. Romney strikes people as a “turnaround artist” who is “likeable.” Mr. Obama will “turn bitter, caustic and dislikable.”
John Fund said Mr. Romney could only lose if he “read too many biographies of Gov. Tom Dewey,” the New Yorker who went down in defeat to President Harry Truman in 1948 after running as a moderate Republican. John called for Mr. Romney to “outline his own vision,” a conservative vision. Yet he cautioned that Mr. Romney must go out from his tight circle of advisers and reach out to the conservatives. Mr. Fund said that he knew no one in Mr. Romney’s inner circle, and that he was concerned about the guy (Eric Fehrnstrom) who kept making blunders: his Etch-a-Sketch blunder and his initial claim that the health care mandate was to be paid for by a penalty rather than a tax, as the congressional Republicans insisted.
Grover said we need to implement a vast program of reform and we need to do it soon upon Mr. Romney’s election. Luckily we have that program, “the Ryan Plan.” He was referring to Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” That sounds good to me. And upon hearing it, I wandered off to look for my life jacket. One never knows when a squall might come up and the result could be catastrophe.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).
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