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Hungry for red meat? Pete Wilson delivers!

September 1, 2008 |  5:31 pm

Pete Wilson, Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Republican National Convention "I know we're supposed to temper the combative tone that might otherwise escape," former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson told Republican delegates from California Monday. "I confess to you that I am a lesser mortal. I find that difficult to do. But I'll try."

He didn't try very hard. Wilson gave California Republicans everything they wanted to hear about Barack Obama and his Democrats: they are a tax-crazy, redistributionist, substance-free lot, and a little shady to boot.

With Republicans taking the high-profile step of lowering the convention's profile -- out of respect for Gulf Coast injured or displaced by Hurricane Gustav -- there was little in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to get the blood pumping. But in the delegations, it was politics as usual.

"The audacity –- it's a word that's somewhat in vogue now, along with 'change' and 'hope' and 'unity' -– the audacity that Barack Obama is offering to us and to our children, the change that he is offering ... quite frankly, is socialism," Wilson told the breakfast crowd. Individual judgment is to be replaced with central planning. Taxes will skyrocket, and money will be taken from people who work for a living and given to people who don't.

"One thing we know for certain is that Barack Obama is going to have a massive tax increase were he elected president," Wilson said. "He would roll back the break of capital gains to discourage investment and job creation."

Here, by the way, is part of what Obama said in Denver last week on taxes:

"I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow." (But then, another Obama proposal is to increase the capital gains tax rate paid by families making $250,000 or more.)

Obama just wants to spend, Wilson said, but "spending more is possible only if you tax more." Here, it seems to me, is where it's helpful not to have President Bush in town, given that the Republican president spent billions on Iraq while slashing taxes.

By the time Wilson was done, you would have thought the Democrats have been running Washington for the last eight years and that McCain is the man to change course. Why did voters throw out Republican majorities in the House and Senate last year? What was the one unforgivable sin? It's because Republicans were ... "acting like Democrats."

Obama just doesn't get it on energy, Wilson said. We should expand nuclear power, and those Democrats will never understand that we can use new clean-coal technology. I have my own doubts about how clean the clean-coal technology is and how safe nuclear power could ever be, but Wilson's position is supported -- by Barack Obama. From Obama in Denver:

"As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. "

Beware, Wilson warned, of the attractive image of "two little girls, two handsome young people." Beware of Obama's eloquence -- the new code word for empty talk.

"The cheering throng (in Denver) did not seem to understand that when in fact there is a test between these two, eloquence is not going to be what saves America," Wilson said. "It is going to be the kind of courage, the kind of knowledge, the kind of readiness to respond, not with nuance and with parsing and with uhs, uh, that characterized not the debate but the presentation that were made at Saddleback, when Pastor Rick Warren asked what I thought were very searching questions."

The window into Obama's political soul, Wilson suggested, was the candidate's response when the pastor asked (at the Saddelback Church forums of Aug. 17) what position he had 10 years ago that he no longer holds today. Opposition to welfare reform, Obama said (read the Warren transcripts here). Wilson cleverly turned this into an assertion that Obama took 10 years to change his mind on welfare reform -- nonsense, of course -- and by extension would take 10 years to come to the right decision on almost anything.

"In times of crisis," he said, "you can't wait 10 years."

In case you were wondering what McCain's change of heart was, it was on expanding drilling. I suppose one could say it took him 10 years too long to arrive at that decision. I'd argue that he ought to think it over for another 10.

Wilson has a unique position in California politics. He was considered a centrist Republican, in part because he did not follow the religious right on social issues, and in part because he agreed to a temporary sales tax hike to extract the state from a budget mess. But he has never shied away from partisan attacks, and he's good at them. He may have been just what California delegates needed to put them in a fighting spirit at this muted convention.

The biggest cheers of the morning came whenever the name of soon-to-be vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was mentioned. Most interesting line abut Palin came from state party chairman Ron Nehring:

"I think we have found America's Margaret Thatcher."

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