November 08, 2006
The Grand Old Flop
Asked last month why his campaign for governor was polling far behind his Democratic opponent, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell gave a characteristically frank answer:
People are frustrated that folks campaign like Ronald Reagan and then govern like Jimmy Carter.
And for the Grand Old Party that, rather than the direction of the war in Iraq, is the message of yesterday's election.
Lacking leadership, direction and focus from the president these last four years, the Republicans in Congress began freelancing and betrayed the voters who put them in the majority. They abandoned the party's core principles -- limited government, fiscal restraint, tax cuts, marketplace deregulation and strong national defense. (That last item in the series may come as a surprise. If you think the GOP was committed to a strong defense, read this.) Congressional Republicans spent like Democrats, stuffing federal budgets with billions in anonymous earmarks and other legislative foolishness. Even in the face of skyrocketing gas prices, the Republican majority joined the Democrats in refusing to lift bans on oil exploration in ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf. Most egregious, the GOP lawmakers failed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent; this will ultimately result in a massive income tax increase once the tax cut law expires.
If voters had wanted Republicans to govern like Democrats, they would've chosen Democrats in the first place. Yesterday's election results were a repudiation of Republican hypocrisy more than an endorsement of Democrats. (Besides, how could it be an endorsement of the Democrats' campaign agenda when they offered no campaign agenda?)
So Ken Blackwell hit the nail on the head; when Republicans campaign as conservatives but govern as liberals, they will be held to account by voters. You would think that, of all people, President Bush would, in light of the election results, understand that now. Wrong.
What was the president's reaction to voters firing Republicans for acting like Democrats? To act like a Democrat! At his press conference today, the president, like congressional Republicans, betrayed the voters who put him in office. He surrendered whatever was left of his domestic agenda when he bizarrely announced that a minimum wage increase is an issue important to Pelosi and that he would be willing to work with her on it. Most disturbingly, he ceded control of the war to the Democrats by giving them the trophy they most desired: Don Rumsfeld's dismissal. (Imagine the message this sends to our troops and the terrorists.) Considering that the Democrats have all but announced their hope that the U.S. will lose in Iraq and that their foreign policy agenda is so anti-American that they are often in full agreement with the terrorists, you can bet our military will be prevented from winning the war.
Compounding the problem, the president is looking for assistance from leaders of an administration that decided to leave Saddam in power after defeating the dictator in Desert Storm. He nominated a retread from his father's failed presidency to be secretary of defense, former CIA director Robert Gates. (This is the same guy who believes we can negotiate Iran out of acquiring nuclear weapons. How Carteresque.) The president also mentioned the Iraq policy review panel chaired by James Baker, also a retread from Bush 41.
With his eagerness to give the Democrats anything they want, Bush rendered himself one of them. He made himself a lame duck today and ensured Democrat dominance at the polls for many years to come. But the political ramifications pale in comparison to the national security consequences. By throwing Rumsfeld under the bus to appease Democrats and replacing him with a discussion group facilitator, the president has invalidated the Bush Doctrine, undermined our troops and endangered the lives of his fellow Americans.
The clock has been turned back to September 10, 2001.
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