© Jack Cashill
When I accepted an invite to lunch at a leadership summit sponsored by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, one of America’s better chambers, I had no idea I would hear a veritable Gettysburg Address of passive-aggressive “moderation.”
The speaker was David Dillon, the CEO of the Kroger Company, America’s second largest retailer. His listed topic--“Winning Management Styles In Today’s Challenging Economy”—gave no hint of the provocation to come.
The speech derived its lasting power not from its style or its substance, but rather from its pure distillation of what one British wag has memorably called “smug and counterfactual Whiggishness.”
Beyond Colin Powell, beyond Arlen Specter even, Dillon has perfectly mastered the glib mindlessness of middle-of-the-road patois. He put that skill to exemplary use in condemning that timeless moderate bugaboo, “intolerance.”
Translated into everyday English, “intolerance” means “principled conservatism.” Moderates seem to have no other unifying principle than their distaste for the same.
Having established intolerance as the theme, Dillon asked those in the largely Republican business audience to raise their hands if they knew who Edmund Ross was
In moderate iconography, Ross is Ché, their poster child, the only one as far as I can tell at least since Neville Chamberlain was discredited.
Dillon explained that Ross, a Kansan, had been appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1866 upon the death of his predecessor. In 1868, he held the deciding vote on whether to convict impeached president Andrew Johnson of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Like Lincoln, Dillon told us, Johnson had only wanted to welcome the South back into the Union. The “Radical Republicans” wanted Johnson out.
Dillon reminded us that the Radical Republicans—hint, hint: all conservatives--operated out of self-interest, either financial or political. Ross, however, put country first and voted not to convict.
This is boilerplate ModerateThink. I cannot tell you how many prominent locals have assured me that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline pursued the notorious abortionist Dr. George Tiller only to feather his own nest.
They insist that Kline hoped to make big bucks on the pro-life speaking circuit, a charge so impressively nonsensical that I am tempted to take notes whenever I hear it. In truth, Kline sacrificed a promising political career in his attempt to bring Tiller to justice.
Dillon had the highest praise for the politico who thwarted Kline and shielded Tiller, former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius. He placed her snugly in the Edmund Ross pantheon as one who puts country above party.
Dillon was particularly impressed with Sebelius’s high-minded work after an F-5 tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas in May 2007. That tornado took out a Kroger Store.
Sebelius wanted Dillon to replace the store, but she did not force him to do so—as if she could. She merely told him to be “creative.” For some inexplicable reason, this excited Dillon.
Dillon did not mention Sebelius’s most newsworthy response to the tornado. Before the dust had literally settled, Sebelius took center stage and blasted the White House for allowing the war in Iraq to distract from local rescue efforts.
At the time, some members of the Kansas National Guard were employed in the early months of the Surge in Iraq, the strategic gambit that would save the Middle East from meltdown.
Like every other Democratic luminary save Joe Lieberman, Sebelius was, at best, indifferent to the outcome of the Surge. Her party came first. Little Greensburg served as a useful prop to advance the party line on Iraq.
Unfortunately for Sebelius, Kansas had conspicuously more than enough state and local responders to handle Greensburg. From day one, they had overwhelmed the small town. Had Sebelius been a Republican, her seditious bit of stagecraft would have killed her career.
Speaking of “counterfactual,” then candidate Barack Obama continued to repeat the National Guard canard even after the facts on the ground had forced Sebelius to back off.
"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas,” Obama told an excited crowd in Richmond, Virginia a few says after the tornado, “Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed.”
Minor problem here, twelve people died. There are only 3,000 people in the whole of Kiowa county.
"Turns out that the National Guard in Kansas only had 40 percent of its equipment,” Obama dissembled, “and they are having to slow down the recovery process in Kansas.”
The people on stage behind Obama didn’t blink at the 10,000 reference. The audience did not gasp. Democrats have grown so used to making stuff up, and having the media finesse it into acceptable ModerateSpeak, they likely did not even notice.
For reasons not entirely clear to his Kansas audience, Dillon cited Barack Obama as still another Edmund Ross. Obama, Dillon suggested, was at least doing something, while the Republicans in Congress sit passively and do nothing.
In the years after the Civil War, those wascally Wadical Wepublicans were not passive at all. They earned the “radical” tag by enacting the 13 th, 14 th, and15th Amendments.
They also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which made African Americans full citizens of the United States. Johnson vetoed the act. The Radical Republicans overrode the veto but did not forget.
In the 1870s Democrats and moderate Republicans combined to oust the Radicals from power, end Reconstruction, and, oh yes, condemn the black south to a century of apartheid.
As I listened to Dillon, I had to wonder if he knew any of this. Moderates are notoriously weak on history.
The source Dillon cited on Ross was, of course, John Kennedy’s 1955 book, Profiles In Courage. Ross was one of only eight Senators profiled.
With an eye on the presidency, JFK likely figured, ‘Why not throw a bone to the south (then segregationist and solidly Democratic), especially if I can get Ted Sorenson to write the damn book and the old man to buy me the Pulitzer Prize.’
JFK, God bless him, at least had a keen sense of irony. Dillon actually seemed to believe what he was saying. Moderates usually do, and that is the scary part.
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