Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of “Profiles in Liberty” interviews Matt will present with leaders of the conservative and libertarian movement.
W. James Antle is an associate editor of The American Spectator and a contributing editor to The American Conservative. As a prolific columnist, Jim’s work has been published in Politico, The Washington Times, National Review, LewRockwell.com, The Guardian (UK), Takimag, and many others. Business Insider ranked Jim as 1 of the 50 pundits you must pay attention to in 2012. He posts wry, pessimistic tweets at @jimantle.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a conservative?
Jim Antle: I grew up in Massachusetts while Michael Dukakis was governor and Ronald Reagan was president. If that perfect laboratory experiment doesn’t turn you into a conservative, God help you.
MN: How did you make the transition from working in IT to working alongside Pat Buchanan?
JA: I sold my first freelance piece to The American Conservative while I was still working in the IT department of a Boston-based dot-com. My first magazine cover story, a piece on the Bush-era divisions between libertarians and conservatives, was written during that time period. One day in early 2004 I was sitting at my desk and I got a call inviting me to come interview for a job at TAC. The rest was an extremely minor footnote to sub-history.
During a breakfast with reporters last month, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, told reporters that his influential organization, which frequently targets fiscally irresponsible Republicans in primaries, may make a run at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when he comes up for re-election in 2014.
Graham, who frequently pushes a neo-conservative foreign policy and is working to keep defense spending from ever being cut, came right back at the Club for Growth by reiterating his support for many of the bad, big government economic policies that fiscal conservatives so vocally oppose.
As if it weren’t evident enough why the Club for Growth may target him, Jim Antle explains exactly why Graham has earned the ire of grassroots groups and fiscal conservatives:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who holds the seat that belonged for nearly fifty years to Strom Thurmond, is on the warpath this campaign season—against his own party.
Graham took exception to ads being run against Democratic senators who voted to continue foreign aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. American embassies were attacked in the first two countries; someone who helped U.S. authorities find Osama bin Laden has been detained in the third.
With Jon Huntsman being a non-starter in the state, Newt Gingrich’s implosion and Mitt Romney announcing that he will skip the Ames Straw Poll in August, some are beginning to question Iowa’s importance in the quest for the Republican nomination in 2012, as noted by The New York Times:
For decades, Iowa has served as the official kickoff for the presidential campaign, providing the first real test for candidates hoping to win their way to the White House.
But there are signs that its influence on the nominating process could be ebbing and that the nature of the voters who tend to turn out for the Republican caucuses — a heavy concentration of evangelical Christians and ideological conservatives overlaid with parochial interests — is discouraging some candidates from competing there.
Mr. Romney’s decision, in particular, suggests that candidates who are viewed suspiciously by the state’s religious conservatives may stand little chance there. Mr. Romney, who was once a pro-choice governor and passed a health care plan that served as the inspiration for President Obama’s, has struggled in Iowa for years.
Some of the state’s Republicans had already been wringing their hands about the outsize influence of the state’s religious conservatives.
“If Iowa becomes some extraneous right-wing outpost, you have to question whether it is going to be a good place to vet your presidential candidates,” Doug Gross, a Republican activist from Iowa, told The New York Times this year.
Via an excellent article by Jim Antle at The American Spectator, Charlie Cook, one of the best political analysts in the business, believes that drawing conclusions about next year based on a special election isn’t smart:
The NY-26 race featured a former Buchanan Republican turned Democrat turned Tea Party independent Jack Davis. Davis has spent millions in three recent congressional campaigns. Running on conservative themes, he took 9 percent of the vote this time around.
“If anyone can find a race next year with a similar configuration, be my guest and apply the ‘lessons learned’ from this race to that one,” warned political prognosticator Charlie Cook before the special election. “But implying that the outcome of this race portends anything about any conventional race next year amounts to cheap spin and drive-by ‘analysis’ of the most superficial kind, which is sadly becoming all too prevalent in Washington.”
But, as Antle notes, Republicans still have a Medicare problem; and it’s not going away anytime soon. They waited too long to try to fight against the incredibly false and dishonest picture that Democrats were able to create about Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan leading up to NY-26.
Last night, President Barack Obama called for a five-year spending freeze in non-defense discretionary spending; hardly a bold move considering that budget deficits will surpass $6 trillion over the next 10 years. However, the Republican-controlled House earlier in the day passed a resolution that would set the budget at 2008 levels:
In a 256-165 vote, the House approved a measure instructing Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee, to set the budget for this year at 2008 spending levels or lower.
The House approved H.Res. 38 on a mostly party-line vote after rejecting a Democratic motion to recommit the resolution by a 184-242 vote.
Seventeen Democrats voted with Republicans: Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), and Heath Shuler (N.C.).
The vote came after another tense hour-long debate in which Democrats accused Republicans of not revealing the budget levels. Republicans countered that the resolution is the start of a process for reducing spending, not a final budget bill.
Republicans are trying to show voters that they are committed to reducing spending after winning back the House on a campaign to bring austerity to Washington. Ryan has talked about reducing spending for fiscal year 2011 by $60 billion, but some conservative Republicans have talked about making bigger cuts.