Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not Your Father's GOP

The past six to eight months have not been pleasant for the Republicans. The falling poll numbers for the Emperor in Chief, the failure of the the regime to handle the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the rocky first month of the highly vaunted Medicare Prescription program,the Plame affair, huge federal deficits, the NSA illegal spying issue: all have combined to make Republicans very nervous. The corruption scandal involving Jack Abramoff (which at this point has twenty or so congress critters under investigation)and the indictments of Tom De Lay certainly haven't helped matters, especially with mid term elections coming up in November.

Conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders has looked over this mess and written a column with both a diagnosis and a suggested cure in today's Star Tribune.

House Republicans are scrambling to rub some of the tarnish off their dingy ethics image. They're desperately proposing reforms that would prevent members from taking pricey golf junkets paid for by special interests -- that is, they want to ban trips they never should have accepted. They're even holding a Feb. 2 in-House election to replace the indicted Texan Rep. Tom DeLay as House majority leader.

...If Republicans want to convince voters that they've reformed, here's a suggestion: Pick Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., to replace DeLay.

It would be glorious payback. When Hefley was chairman of the House ethics committee, he stood up to DeLay. In 2004, his committee unanimously admonished DeLay three times -- for offering to trade a candidate endorsement for a vote in favor of the Medicare drug plan, for cozying up to energy lobbyists in a way that "at a minimum, created the appearance that donors were being provided with special access" and for asking a federal agency to track a plane carrying members of the Texas Legislature during a political squabble. GOP biggies were miffed -- not at DeLay, as they should have been, but at Hefley.

In retaliation, the GOP leadership announced it would change committee rules to make it harder to investigate complaints, and thus shielded DeLay. Hefley complained that the changes threatened "the integrity of the House." The GOP leadership kindly dumped Hefley and found a new committee chair.

...Under Hastert and DeLay, the GOP leadership has betrayed Republican principles. Deficit spending has been the leadership's crutch, and fundraising its addiction. It's clear DeLay and his cronies would still be living large and skirting rules if uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff had not pleaded guilty to defrauding Indian tribal clients, conspiring to bribe members of Congress and evading taxes. If the GOP is calling for reforms, it's not because the party saw the light. It's because the leaders got caught.

That's not why voters elect Republicans. The GOP is built on people who want less government, not record spending. They want their lawmakers to be probusiness, but also expect their representatives to feel more allegiance to their constituents than sleazy lobbyists flashing first-class plane tickets.

...Changing the ethics rules won't help the Republicans if they continue to choose leaders because they are the biggest fundraisers and the best backslappers. If Republicans want to get back to their philosophical roots, they should find a leader who remembers why he went to Washington. They should choose a leader who still believes in "the integrity of the House."
[Emphasis added]

While Ms. Saunders' rant is directed properly at the GOP, much of it could also be sent to the Democrats, especially those who voted for the Bankruptcy bill (or at least voted for cloture)and other bills which screwed all but the wealthiest of Americans.

This is going to be a very interesting election season.


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