Election 2008: 'The Conservative's Handbook'
Thursday, September 4, 2008; 2:00 PM
Nashville talk radio host Phil Valentine was online Thursday, Sept. 4, 2 p.m. ET to discuss his new book, " The Conservative's Handbook: Defining the Right Position on Issues from A to Z," and the Republican Party Platform.
A transcript follows.
Phil Valentine: Hi. Phil Valentine, here. Host of The Phil Valentine Show on Westwood One and author of the new book, The Conservative's Handbook. It's now for sale at fine book stores everywhere or through PhilValentine.com. I'll be glad to talk politics and answer any questions.
Maryland: Please explain to me how the conservative worldview reconciles positions that women should "do it all" but not get any assistance to do so? If one starts out with the premise that it is nearly impossible for a family to get by on one income, or that we should ban women's reproductive choices so that we have a situation of single mothers raising children, then these children have to be clothed and fed.
Leaving aside "welfare," why would the GOP be against flexible family leave? Paid parental leave? Expanding the Family Medical Leave Act? Providing tax incentives to companies that provide on-site day care? All of these things would promote working, as opposed to "living off of the state's dime." All of these things promote stability in children's lives. I see no mention of where Sarah Palin stands on legislation like the FMLA, but I do see press reports on how she breastfeeds her infant in her office or will hire nannies. How does this experience possibly relate to the average American working a low-wage job, trying to make ends meet?
Phil Valentine: I don't think families are against any kind of family leave. The problem conservatives have is it's mandated by the government. The problem with single mothers is many of them have no support from the fathers. Instead of the government coming to the rescue of these kids, we should hold the fathers responsible.
Anonymous: Starting with "A", what is the right's position on abortion?
Phil Valentine: Abortion is wrong. It's that simple.
Nashville, Tenn.: Uncle Phil, you've made a habit of giving up airtime to salacious allegations made against Sens. Obama and Edwards and other Democrats from the National Enquirer and Larry Sinclair. Will you be devoting the same time to the article coming out regarding Gov. Palin?
Phil Valentine: We already have. These outrageous allegations from TheDailyKos have been discussed on the show. Remember, the allegations against Obama were brought up by a person who claimed to be a witness. We followed that we great skepticism and followed up when he failed the lie-detector test.
Pittsfield, Mass.: Who decides which convention is first? Why have the Democrats gone first in the past two (2004 and 2008)? In 2004, and now again in 2008, the Republicans are just copying the Democratic ideas -- the only problem is they have no intention of delivering. By following the Democrats, the Republicans gain a huge advantage. This topic does not seem to be discussed anywhere.
Phil Valentine: It's customary for the party in power to go last.
Lyme, Conn.: I have not read your book but I look forward to getting it. I wonder, though, about any book that states an "all conservative" or "all liberal" viewpoint. Would you agree that it is better the examine the pros and cons of each issue and judge it on its own merits, rather than finding out which side is the "conservative" or "liberal" position and then taking the "party line" as your position?
Phil Valentine: What this book does is lay out the conservative philosophy, much like each party lays out its platform. You'll find that Republicans are not always conservatives.
New York: Howdy Phil. I'm a bit confused here -- I listened to Sarah Palin, Rudi Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney tell me what the GOP stands for. Presumably, their answers are in your book. So do you have two different versions, one that is pro-life and one that is pro-choice? Do you actually need four versions, because there is one that recognizes man-made climate change and one that denies it? Oh wait- how about eight, since you have to be for and against drilling in ANWR? Or 16, because you have to be for a small government when Democrats are in charge and for a giant one when Republicans are? Help me out, please.
Phil Valentine: You're confusing conservative with Republican. The conservative position on the abortion issue is pro-life.
U.S.: If Ron Paul were running against Barack Obama, I really would not know who to vote for. Just wondering what your thoughts are on Bush/Cheney/Congress borrowing more money from foreign creditors than all other previous administrations combined! It doesn't seem conservative. What are your thoughts on our adventure in Iraq? Regards.
Phil Valentine: You're right on the spending issue. Conservatives believe in smaller government. Bush got it right on the tax end but not on the spending end.
As for Iraq, that's one that's really hard to peg in conservative vs. liberal terms. I can see both sides of that one although I think we did the right thing by going in. I would add that the Republicans need to stop shying away from this accusation that they did it, at least in part, for oil. Let me give you an example. If we moved to solar power and the Chinese developed a system to block the sun over part of the U.S., do you think we'd go to war over it? You bet we would. Keeping our energy supplies open goes to the heart of our national security.
Washington: I understand the Republicans' strategy of attacking the media for asking questions that the McCain campaign can't or doesn't want to answer. How realistic is it to think that the campaign can follow that path to victory? Once the media has opportunities to question Sarah Palin about the obvious inconsistencies between her record and her maverick/reformer narrative, is she just going to continue complaining about the media?
Phil Valentine: There are only one issues I can think of where they disagree and that's global warming. McCain's stand on illegal immigration is the one that's angered conservatives the most but Palin hasn't had to deal with that issue so we don't really know where she stands.
Tampa, Fla.: I am an American. I love my country. I do not want Florida or any other state to secede from the U.S. -- Love it or leave it. Understand? And this applies to Mr. Palin and his buddies in the Alaska Independence Party. Now, what's the conservative position on this? You're not one of those bleeding-heart liberals who get all squishy when it comes to putting America first, are you? What do you say about this to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do conservatives tell them they have the wrong flag on their uniforms? That Old Glory is second best? Did John McCain spend five years in the Hanoi Hilton so Mr. Palin could plot and plan way for Alaska to dump the United States of America?
Phil Valentine: Our founding fathers provided an escape hatch for those states that no longer believe being part of the United States is in their best interest. I don't want to debate the Civil War here. I will say that I'm glad the South lost and Union was preserved but that doesn't mean states don't have legitimate problems with the federal government. Texas has talked about leaving the union for years as has California. That's one of those issues that's neither conservative nor liberal.
Alexandria, Va.: Is it "conservative" to be against earmarks except when it comes to helping one's own community?
Phil Valentine: No, and that's why I believe people like Ted Stevens, Republican from Alaska, are not conservative. Conservatism means watching over everyone's money, not just trying to pull in the pork for your state. I'll have to give it to John McCain. I disagree with him on several key issues but he hasn't brought pork projects home to Arizona, as far as I know.
Chicago: Palin claimed last night that Obama proposes to "raise the death tax." Current law has the exemption at $2 million and the rate at 45 percent for 2008, the tax disappearing completely for a year (2010) and then the tax returning to an exemption of $675,000 and a rate of 55 percent from 2011 onwards. Obama wants to freeze it permanently at a $3.5 million exemption and a 45 percent rate. McCain wants to freeze it permanently at a $5 million exemption and a 15 percent rate.
Both proposals raise the tax compared to current law for one year only, 2010, and lower it compared to current law in 2011 onwards. Can you find any possible logic justifying Palin's claim that Obama wants to "raise" the "death tax" without conceding that the same logic would imply that McCain also wants to "raise" the "death tax"? Here's a hint: Pointing out that Obama wouldn't cut it as much as McCain would does not justify saying that Obama would raise it.
Phil Valentine: You'd have to ask her. I'm here to define conservatism and the conservative thing to do is to erase the death tax. That is, without a doubt, double taxation, something the founding fathers were vehemently against.
Anonymous: Ypsilanti, Mich.: I campaigned for McCain in 2000 and 2004 (lonely) and I am completely disillusioned by his about-face to the conservative wing of the GOP. I sadly watched Palin's speech last night and am left wondering how this appeals to us middle-of-the-road Republicans. Is this really playing well? Would the McCain of 2000 have voted for himself today?
Phil Valentine: McCain chose Palin because he knew he had to shore up his conservative base. Conservatives like me were ready to sit home on election day. Now, we're energized. Not so much about McCain but because he's now placed Palin on the launch pad to the presidency and the Republicans have pulled the wheel quickly to the right before they went over the cliff.
Memphis, Tenn.: From what I understand, Gov. Palin is an expert on energy issues. Has anyone asked about her press release from a few weeks ago praising Obama's energy plan?
Phil Valentine: I've not seen that.
Silver Spring, Md.: What's taking so long? I'm white, male, over 40, married with kids, have an IRA, own a house, have two cars and been mugged at knifepoint, but I'm still not a conservative. Do I need to listen to more AM radio, or do I need to quit my upper-class, mostly white church (with the divorced woman rector)? Would your book help me, or would I just be even more confused?
Phil Valentine: This book will give you a clear idea of what it means to be a conservative. Once you've read it you'll know exactly where you are on the political spectrum. But, I warn you. If you're not a conservative now, you will be by the time you reach Chapter Z.
Follow-up from Maryland: I understand your position (although my question did not limit itself to single mothers). As a married mother, my employer has no obligation to allow me time off from work, say, to recover from a C-section. Similarly, if my child was sick, my employer would be under no obligation to allow me time off to take care of her. Ergo, I lose my job. I assure you that my husband is equally responsible in our household. What solutions, besides "holding the father accountable" do conservatives offer working parents so that they actually can work and provide for their families?
Phil Valentine: I hate to be so blunt but if you're not satisfied, get another job. I've done that several times. Your employer hires you to do a job. If you're not there you shouldn't get paid. Before you get angry let me ask you a question. Do you pay the guy who mows your lawn when he doesn't mow it because he's on vacation or taking family leave?
New York: Given that John McCain is pro-choice and thus not a conservative, who will you support? Bob Barr?
Phil Valentine: No, I've agonized over this. I'm supporting the McCain/Palin ticket because it launches the Palin/Jindal or Palin/(fill in the conservative) ticket in 2012. Bob Barr is not a viable candidate and the general election is not the place to make a protest vote. That's how we got Clinton. Protest votes are great in primaries but one must be more pragmatic when it comes to handing over the keys to the White House.
Seattle: Can you explain to me the conservative attitude towards federalism versus the attitude toward California?
Phil Valentine: When you say "federalism" I presume you mean getting back to the Constitution. That's what I believe. Not sure what you mean by the "attitude toward California." If you mean California being able to recognize gay marriage, I think they should be able to. I don't agree with gay marriage but there's nothing in the Constitution about marriage. That's left to the states. However, a gay couple married in California shouldn't expect that marriage to be recognized in every other state.
Palin, small-town gal: Good grief, I hated growing up in my small town and fled as soon as possible -- and I'm hardly the only one. Are small-town voters that important that we have to pretend all small towns are morally superior bastions of gentle concern for the welfare of the others? Inversely, does that mean that city dwellers (yes, I already know we're immoral) are not people who are concerned for the welfare of others? Can we give the whole "small town" pander a break?
Phil Valentine: Believe it or not, most of the country is made up of small towns. Take a look at the 2000 Red State/Blue State map.
Parallels between treatment of Palin and Clinton: There's no doubt about it: sexism is alive and rearing its deadly head (not that conservatives and Republicans haven't fomented their share toward women -- and especially Hillary -- in the past 16 years). Regarding the attacks on Ms. Palin -- who is terrifically impressive as a strong, smart, charming, electrifying, energetic, intelligent, powerful personality and candidate, whether I agree with her or not (she is amazing!) -- do you think conservatives and Republicans will start to think about and deal with sexism in a different way? Thanks.
Phil Valentine: I don't think Republicans have been sexist. I know many good, conservative women in Congress. But they got there because they were conservative and capable, not because they were women.
Washington, DC: Is there really a need to openly mock community organizing? I volunteer a lot with at risk/underprivileged kids, and there are so many resources for people volunteering to tutor, mentor, feed, house, etc. A lot of this is driven by unpaid volunteers, and sometimes religious organizations. At its root, conservatives should be rooting for this type of grassroots change that affects millions of mainly inner-city kids without taking any money from the government.
I am going to lodge a guess that there aren't a lot of community organizers' votes the Republicans lost last night, but millions of conservatives, independents and libertarians volunteer with these organizations -- and come to know many community organizers. We don't have to agree with the organizers on politics, but they command a lot of respect by taking very low-paying jobs to affect change from the ground up.
I am a complete Independent (old school conservative/libertarian). I am scared by some of the big government language of Obama, but to ridicule and hold "community organizers" in contempt really gets me angry. I am not sure what the game plan is, but by mocking community organizing, you just distanced yourself from a lot of people who are open to voting Republican.
Phil Valentine: That was a dig at Obama and his lack of experience, not community organizers, although most Americans don't know what that means. I'm not sure I do.
Seattle: Is conservatism about a small government on all issues, or just economic ones? Defining where life begins, who can get married, etc., would seem to be big-government things.
Phil Valentine: Here's what we call "The Valentine Doctrine." That is as follows: The government is there to do only what the private sector won't, can't or shouldn't do. When you apply that to many of the things government is doing you find it's way too big.
Where does life begin? I'm not sure. Like Reagan, I'd rather err on the side of life.
Who can get married? Whoever the individual states decide they want to recognize.
Silver Spring, Md.: Does the "big bad liberal media" thing really work with the kids today? I work with young people, and they've grown up in a world with blogs, cable TV and a political media landscape where pretty much all of the "stars" are conservatives.
Phil Valentine: All of the stars are conservative? There's a new movie coming out October 3rd called "An American Carol." There are about four conservative actors in it. That's practically every conservative, actor or otherwise, in Hollywood. The Hollywood Republican Party holds its meetings in the Beverly Hilton elevator.
London: As someone not in your country, I -- and many of the people around me -- honestly am puzzled by the heavy emphasis abortion receives in every election in the U.S., especially given that the people who seem to be the most loudly opposed are also the ones who are most loudly in favor of the death penalty. How does supporting the death penalty align with being "pro-life"? Also, what do conservatives think about contraception?
Phil Valentine: I happen to be against the death penalty for various reasons so I don't have that inconsistency. But, abortion is such a big deal because there are so many of them. Plus, the liberals have so opposed themselves on this issue that they now support partial-birth abortion at 8 months.
As far as contraception, I believe in it but many Catholics don't. I don't think that's a conservative/liberal issue.
Washington: You seem to think highly of Sarah Palin. Does that mean conservatives now approve of windfall profits taxes on oil companies, which she championed as governor of Alaska?
Phil Valentine: I don't think windfall profit taxes are conservative but, again, you're confusing conservatives and Republicans. I don't think her (or Reagan's) support of unions is conservative. Just because they have an (R) after their name doesn't mean they're conservative. Can you say "Arlen Specter?"
San Francisco: So you don't believe in the Equal Protection Clause, which says that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"? There are legal benefits to marriage that gay people who want to marry are entitled to.
Phil Valentine: Great. I'm glad you think that way. That means I can carry my gun on my hip into San Francisco. That's the law in Tennessee.
Gaithersburg, Md.:"The government is there to do only what the private sector won't, can't or shouldn't do." That seems like it could be open to a lot of interpretation. In years past fire departments were private, and what is against privatizing the military? Conversely, one could argue that health care is something the private sector shouldn't do (profit motive over health). I don't think too many would argue that the private sector is pretty good at efficiency, it's just when it comes to the can/should/would question there is disagreement. Thanks.
Phil Valentine: The fire dept. example is a good one. If there's a volunteer fire department that's doing the job then the city or county shouldn't start one to compete with them. You're getting the hang of it.
Re: The Valentine Principle: Your statement begets another question: How do you define "things that the private market can't, won't or shouldn't do"? There are plenty of things that the private market, in theory can do but for practical reasons doesn't, and there is plenty of room for disagreement here.
Phil Valentine: Give me an example.
Washington: How is conservatism different than libertarianism? It seems to me that you believe the market would/should replace social programs. Is that not the mark of a libertarian?
Phil Valentine: Libertarianism and conservatism are very close. However, I believe legalized drug use would cripple America (it's all in the book). That's one of the few issues with which I have disagreement with the Libertarians.
So there has been no sexism?: You still didn't answer the question: "Do you think conservatives and Republicans will start to think about and deal with sexism in a different way?"
Phil Valentine: Sexism has been dealt with. There are laws against discriminating against women. What else do you want to be done?
Re: McCain as pro-choice?: When did this happen? I never knew he was pro-choice, and read that he believes that life begins at conception and would appoint judges that would uphold this view. Did I miss something?
Phil Valentine: McCain is pro-life.
Phil Valentine: Gang, I HAVE to run. I have to do my radio show. This was a blast. Maybe the Washington Post will invite me back again. In the meantime, get The Conservative's Handbook at your favorite book store or go to PhilValentine.com.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.