Following William F. Buckley Jr.'s recent CBS interview, other conservative figures continue to voice dissent. Buckley had said "I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology - with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress."
"And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."
Today's WaPo continues to report that the financial edge of many GOP incumbents has eroded. In another article they report comments made by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb indicating the GOP has lost its way. Another article recounts "Pundits Renounce the President" and includes coverage of a recent Scarborough Country show on MSNBC during which the conservative host asked whether Bush was smart enough to lead the country. (One wonders why Mr. Scarborough waited 6 years to ask the question.)
Earlier this year Chuck Baldwin, the "Constitution Party" 2004 vice-presidential candidate, wrote: "One does not have to be a prophet to see that the future of the national Republican Party is very bleak. It also seems that the GOP is willingly assisting its own demise. "
The "assisting in its own demise" point certainly seemed to be the case when after being lambasted for fiscal irresponsibility, the Republican-led Congress continued to elbow and fight for billions in pork benefiting their 'customers' back home. This over-the-top arrogance was never captured better than in a recent "Washington Sketch" column by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. ("Coburn Dines Alone as the Senate Buffet Piles on the Pork") Responding to Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) battle against the feeding frenzy, Trent Lott commented "Congratulations, you won one. Now go away."
"We're borrowing the money from future generations," Coburn protested. He was right, of course. Truth be told, conservative leaders were saying behind the scenes that the Congress ought to be "bitch-slapped" for their profligacy. But those same leaders put on their GOP "happy face" when in public, which serves no one and nothing but their own pet project budgets.
In his new book "Conservatives Betrayed" author Richard Viguerie makes the same case against fiscal irresponsibility and calls for conservatives to withhold financial support from Republican committees and candidates.
The fiscal issues are well-documented in 2004 book, "Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It." The book is by Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and founding president of The Concord Coalition. Peterson paints a sober portrait of the country that once was the greatest creditor to other nations and is now the largest debtor in the world. Peterson lambasts "Enron-style accounting" in Congress as he reminds readers that Americans now depend on $2 billion of foreign capital every working day. Our dependence on other countries to finance our home mortgages, credit card balances, and business investments puts us at risk. If those same foreign 'supporters' pull the plug on the easy money, "interest rates would likely shoot up, the dollar would likely sink, and the economy would likely stall," Peterson writes.
Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, believes there is a 75% chance of a crisis within five years. (Since the book was published two years ago, that would be within 3 years.) Peterson also points out that Warren Buffet is now purchasing foreign currencies "for the first time." Marshall Auerback, the prominent British fund manager, says the US has devolved into a banana-republic-style "debt trap," Peterson also reports.
Countries like Japan that are underwriting our trade and budget deficits, will face sharp increases in health care and pension spending to accommodatee its burgeoning elder population, making keeping the US afloat less feasible.
But for those conservatives who think this is simply a Republican problem, or who locate the fault with Bush II not being a true Reaganite in economic matters, the truth is far more broad. As Peterson notes, "[T]ax cuts pushed by both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did not, as promised pay for themselves, but led to an explosion of government debt." Peterson is right when he concludes that for both Republicans and Democrats, "their own political parties were conspiring to turn a difficult, long-term challenge into a looming crisis."
And as far as the present GOP suffering from "an absence of effective conservative ideology" as Buckley put it, it's true, but rooted in long-term problems that can be traced back as far as a hundred years ago when conservatives began a pattern around the turn of the century of appeasing Progressives by enacting legislation they disagreed with, but believed would never be enforced (like the 1890 Sherman anti-trust law.) Since then the Republicans have been appeasers par excellence, abandoning the last bulwark of an encroaching statism time and time again, in order to align themselves with popular leftist ideas. Leonard Piekoff was right when he wrote two decades ago that "America, as conceived by the Founding Fathers, lasted about a century."
While many conservatives are complaining, very few are striking at the roots of statism and collectivism. Consider: one of the most critical acts of appeasement came only 12 years ago with the fumbled "Contract with America" in which GOP'ers pledged to cut taxes and regulations, shrink government and devolve power and money back to the states. That revolution was threatened within a year when nervous Republicans abandoned their principles and retreated before accusations they were mean-spirited and lacking in compassion. They were soon attacking capitalism and the wealthy, and calling for more resdistribution of wealth, all to score points -taking up the 'fall-back' position they have occupied for over one hundred years.
The best summary of how the 'Contract with America' started to go all wobbly is "The GOP's Foreign Imports" written by Robert Bidinotto in 1996. The essay notes a "philosophical meltdown" within the GOP. "Battered by charges of 'selfishness' during the recent budget debate, the Republican majority in Congress is paralyzed and adrift, its energy gone, its direction uncertain. Even the most conservative of Republicans are competing desperately with liberal Democrats to demonstrate their 'compassion.'...With a clear mandate and control of Congress, the 'Republican Revolution' and its 'Contract with America' seemed unstoppable. A Newsweek headline summarized the prevailing expectations: 'Goodbye Welfare State.'
But within a year the 'revolution' was lost, the reform juggernaut stopped dead in its tracks. Virtually nothing in the 'Contract' has been enacted into law. By contrast, Bill Clinton, just months ago a pathetic political presence, now dominates his potential Republican rivals in the polls. "
Bidinotto goes on to explain the "stunning reversal of fortunes" which he predicted in a January 1995 column in Freeman when he wrote: "In fact, the biggest barriers to reform are likely to arise within the Republican Party itself. The GOP stands precariously on deep philosphical fault lines, and already we're hearing rumblings of coming tremors that could shatter the revolutionary coalition."
That prophecy came true. "The GOP's meltdown was due not to chance, fickle voter 'moods', the lobbying power of vested interests, Bill Clinton's political gifts, or GOP political ineptitude. Political machinations have nothing to do with what is now being called 'the Republican crack-up'. "
The essay goes on to desribe the philosophical fault lines that subverted the GOP's very identity. Those include the ideas of altrusim, pragmatism, anti-individualism, tribalism and anti-enlightenment ideas which militate against the ideas of reason, individualism and freedom upon which the nation was founded. Because those fault lines have never been effectively dealt with or even clearly identified by leading Republican politicians, the same subversion from within, the same self-defeating, will go on.
Worse, the voracious appetites of Republicans in Congress indicate an almost total lack of interest in ideology. The idea of moral governance has been supplanted by an opportunistic and deflective preoccupation with the sexual morality of constituents. (Which reminds me of conservative reporter who spoke of prostitution rings that service congressmen, but added the D.C. police source didn't want to detail it for media.)
Bidinotto's 1996 description of the first "Contract with America" is timely:
"'The welfare state has failed,' proclaimed the Revolution's architect, House Speaker Newt Gingrich. '[T]he 30-year experiment in a federally-controlled redistribution system run by bureaucrats is a failure...It is destroying the children.'
But in the next breath, he denied he was trying to end this monstrosity. That charge was vicious and untrue, he argued: the GOP 'Contract' planned only to transfer redistributionist programs to the states by means of federal 'block grants,' not to terminate them.
The apparent 'principle' here is that waste, failure, and the destruction of children is acceptable -if done at the local rather than federal level.
Nor did the GOP actually aim to cut any federal social spending, Gingrich insisted. Far from being coldhearted, the GOP's proposed budget over five years would actually raise social spending, from $842 billion to $1.03 trillion -unlike those 'spendthrift' Democrats, who'd squander $1.096 trillion.
The apparent 'principle' here is that taking ever-increasing billions of private wealth is acceptable -if only we don't get too carried away about it.
Soon the quarrel bogged down over when the budget was to be balanced. Significantly, congressional Republicans didn't propose implementing a balanced budget during any of their current terms in office: they pushed the day of reckoning seven years into the future. When Clinton suggested eight or ten years instead, the GOP leaders dug in their heels.
The apparent 'principle' here was that a pledge for subsequent congresses to somehow balance the budget seven years from now, rather than eight, was nonnegotiable. "
Now, Newt Gingrich positions himself as the principled conservative who wants to win the voters' confidence with a 21st-century "Contract with America."
If he can win the nomination, he'll certainly help Hillary.
Posted by Sherrie Gossett at 6:33 PM