Return of America First?

Friday’s lead story in America’s largest newspaper must have made for sober reading at AEI and the Council on Foreign Relations, the twin dorms that house the Wilsonian wings of our national parties.

Americans, it appears, have had a bellyful of interventionism and globaloney. Reporters Susan Page and David Jackson merit quoting at length:

"In a USA Today/Gallup Poll, nearly half of those surveyed said the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can on their own.’ …

"The leave-us-alone mood is apparent not only in the proportion of Americans, 64 percent, who want all or some of the U.S. troops in Iraq to come home now. It’s also reflected in concern about illegal immigration — eight of 10 said it was ‘out of control’ — and in the furious public reaction to reports last month that a Dubai-owned firm was poised to take over cargo operations at ports in six states.

"Attitudes have soured toward trade, as well. Two-thirds said increased trade with other countries mostly hurts U.S. workers. By 50 percent-39 percent, respondents also said it mostly hurts American companies."

What do the polls mean? Bush and The Wall Street Journal may say America is trudging backward to the dark days of "isolationism and protectionism," of "Fordney-McCumber and Smoot-Hawley that gave us the Hoovervilles, Hitler and World War II."

But the truth is less dramatic.

What the polls are saying is that America, having tasted the fruits of Bush’s foreign, immigration and trade policies, rejects them. Why? All three, of dubious conservative parentage, have failed.

Three in five Americans now believe the Iraq war — whether we invaded to oust Saddam, strip him of WMD, turn Iraq into Vermont or establish our "benevolent global hegemony" — was and is not worth the cost in blood and money.

They are saying that a NAFTA-GATT trade policy that results in $800 billion trade deficits and the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs — one in every six in just five years — should be jettisoned.

When they read of China growing at 10 percent a year, as factories close in the United States and GM and Ford, once the two greatest companies on earth, are lingering outside bankruptcy court, they think we can do better. And, we can.

They are not saying they dislike foreigners. But they are saying a government that cannot stop an invasion across our Mexican border that has left 11 million to 20 million intruders in our country, stomping around under foreign flags and demanding the benefits of U.S. citizens, is a failed regime that needs to be replaced. After all, what does it profit us if we save Anbar province but lose Arizona?

What the polls are saying is that neoconservatism has failed and we wish to be rid of it, that Davos Republicanism has failed and we wish to be rid of it, that the open-borders immigration policy of The Wall Street Journal is idiotic and we wish to be rid of it.

This is not only understandable, there would be something wrong with Americans if they did not seek to regurgitate the fruit of such failed policies. Yet, when one looks at the large Republican field of presidential hopefuls shaping up, not one has broken with, and all seem to stand behind, George W. Bush. None so more than John McCain.

And what do the Democrats offers? Taxes, censure, amnesty, Cynthia McKinney and a four-year rerun of "The Clintons."

In 1964, Barry Goldwater and his 110-proof conservatism were repudiated in the largest landslide since FDR’s stomping of Alf Landon, who carried only Maine and Vermont.

But by 1968, Great Society liberalism had been tried and had transparently failed. The no-win war in Vietnam and the urban riots bespoke a failed philosophy and policy. Today in 2006, it is neoconservatism and Wall Street Journal Republicanism that have failed as badly as had Great Society liberalism by 1968.

Where Bush has remained faithful to a Reaganite philosophy, on taxes and judges, the country has remained with him. But where he listened to the globalists and the Vulcans, who altered the liturgy and diluted the dogma, he lost the country.

Fred Barnes has written darkly of a "paleo moment" in America.

But paleoconservatism is simply the faith of our fathers before we built that shelter for the neocon homeless booted out of their own house by the McGovernites, who appear, in retrospect, to have been more savvy than we thought.

What does the old-time conservatism stand for? Limited government. Balanced budgets. A defense second to none. Secure borders. A trade policy that puts America and Americans first. And a foreign policy that keeps us out of wars that are not America’s wars.

Unfortunately, when the USA Today/Gallup poll shows Americans are looking for precisely such authentic conservatism, neither party is offering it. The children were right. The system doesn’t work.