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POLITICS

Conservatives, lobbyists, and 'pro-business' pols

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

"Populist nonsense" and "breathless hysteria," are the charges conservative Washington Post blogger Jen Rubin levels against my latest column. The thing is, I think Rubin basically agrees with me, but she just doesn't like the way I word it.

My column warned that it was "peril[ous]" (which I understand to be not much different from the would "dangerous") for Mitt Romney to keep getting cozy with the K Street wing of the GOP establishment. My case in point was revolving-door lobbyist Vin Weber, a very nice man, and seemingly upright, judging by our conversation yesterday, but still. He's a lobbyist whose clients often want bigger government. Guys who get too entrenched with being "pro-business" often wander too far away from being pro-free market.

Plus, I wrote that K Street's "priorities and principles" often differ from those of the base.

Rubin's blog post rips my column, but let me pull out her qualifying statements:

...Barack Obama was having considerable success wooing business leaders in 2008....

Recall how the left-wing media played gotcha upon the discovery that some of the McCain campaign operatives had worked as lobbyists? That went on until Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s associations with similar types became apparent....

The degree to which the presidential contenders confuse being business-friendly with defense of free-markets and conservative economic principles is legitimate subject of inquiry...

The rise of the Tea Party movement, the financial meltdown, and the bailout frenzy have set off an unusual alliance of anti-business animus between the right and the left. It’s important for conservatives to keep a clear head on this one....

See, Rubin and I agree. "Pro-business" isn't always good. Obama was often "pro-business" in a decidedly big-government way. Politicians' coziness with business should concern conservatives. And the Right has good reason -- bailouts -- to dislike and distrust business.

But I take as Rubin as suggesting that I'm getting too personal here, and that we should not care as much about who is allying with whom, but on "the candidates’ records and agendas."

First, I agree to some extent. Which is why I've written about Rick Perry's record of corporatism and apparent crony capitalism, and Mitt Romney's technocratic managerialism manifesting itself as corporatism.

But it also definitely matters whom someone surrounds himself with, and where those people are coming from. There's a real divide between the K Street Wing of the GOP and the Tea Party Wing. In these circles, as in any circle, there are different sensibilities, and in tough moments -- like late September 2008 -- those sensibilities often determine how you act.

I tend to share sensibilities of the Tea Party Wing. I think much of the primary electorate does, too -- thus the "peril" for Romney.

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