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November 3, 2006

The case for keeping the bums

“The gavel of the speaker of the House is in the hands of special interests, and now it will be in the hands of America’s children,” said would-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently. “I don’t mean to imply my male colleagues will have any less integrity … but I don’t know that a man can say that as easily as a woman can.”

There you have it – the Democrats’ “New Direction for America” from the woman who would soon be third in line to the American presidency. This makes us wonder, of course: Did Ms. Pelosi simply botch some sort of joke, or did she really mean that a Democrat-led 110th Congress will be a Congress in the hands of children? If so, doesn’t she owe America’s adults an apology?

Even more unusual than Pelosi’s grandiloquence is the uncommon agreement of many at opposite ends of the political spectrum – liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans – on one crucial point: If President George W. Bush and the GOP lose majorities in Congress, it’s because they deserve to. Oddly enough, the critics are correct.

They’re correct because our Republican President and Republican majorities in the House and Senate have failed us. They’ve failed to push for meaningful tax reform, even when Tom Delay’s FairTax proposal and Dick Armey’s flat-tax legislation appeared as viable options. They’ve all but ignored entitlement reform, even when faced with Social Security insolvency by 2050. At the same time, President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress have tap-danced around immigration reform, customizing their position to the constituency being addressed. If all that isn’t bad enough, this Republican administration and legislature have presided over the most massive expansion of the federal government in living memory. In short, they have squandered their conservative mandate.

Republicans have, however, focused their efforts on a constitutional amendment – that’s an amendment to the Constitution – when existing law has already decided the homosexual “marriage” issue smartly. They have touted an under-funded, over-hyped and possibly “virtual” border fence that should do a fine job of keeping dangerous Americans from sneaking into Mexico. Last and quite possibly least, Republicans have banned the export of horsemeat for human consumption, thus eliminating one of our most satisfying exports to France.

We don’t suggest that President Bush and the Republican majorities have done nothing right. The administration’s 2001-2003 tax cuts were important for taxpayers and the economy, if not aggressively conservative. In addition, the President’s judicial appointments, stalwartly defended by Republican senators, have been admirable. This commitment to placing constitutional constructionists on the federal bench may prove the most enduring and important achievement of the Bush administration. Finally, Republican prosecution of America’s war against Islamic fascism, including the war in Iraq, has been profound in its scope and implications for U.S. security.

Yet even these fine achievements – and they are fine achievements – do not escape serious qualification. There have been tax cuts, yes, but no talk of comprehensive tax reform, once a staple of the party platform. Judicial appointments have emphasized constructionism, but there has been no accompanying effort to restrain judicial activism. The administration’s ad hoc policies of de-Ba'athification and the demobilization of the Iraqi army can also be second-guessed.

Yet were Democrats to gain a majority, what would they have in store for us? Answers to the problems we face as a nation? Hardly.

Last week, this column considered the likely tenor of a Democrat majority in Congress, given the populist-heavy and entitlement-ready character of their legislative proposals in the 109th Congress – but that’s not the half of it. The first 100 days of a Democrat-majority Congress – the traditional post-election honeymoon period – would have all the charm and grace of John Kerry doing standup at the local VFW.

For starters, Democrats have vowed probes (read: witch hunts) on everything from Hurricane Katrina to Humvee armor; from terrorist surveillance to page assailants. Even the Associated Press described the Democrats’ probable kangaroo courts as “made for television” events.

Domestically, Democrats are set to ramp up entitlement spending, increase the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to a small-business-crushing, job-killing $7.25, and effect the beginning of the end of the Bush tax cuts. Internationally, congressional Democrats would “reassess” U.S. security commitments abroad, quickly reaching their foregone conclusion for a speedy and complete troop withdrawal from Iraq, the very debate of which emboldens our jihadist enemy.

The icing on the Demo cake would be to impeach the President and to use the power of subpoena on everyone from Halliburton to the Heritage Foundation, despite assurances from Ms. Pelosi not to do so.

While it’s important that conservatives not turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of the Republican leadership, it’s far more important that we not turn leadership over to the blind. Tax cuts may not have been tax reform, but they’re not new taxes. Liberal judges may not yet face impeachment, but they do face a greater likelihood of reversal by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. Aspects of our Iraq policy may have been poorly executed, but better to defend America imperfectly than not to defend her at all.

We don’t need fewer Republicans; we just need fewer Republicans like the ones we’ve got. Indeed, Rep. Mike Pence and the Republican Study Committee continue to provide the finest example of what Republican leadership can – and must – offer.

Back in February, Rep. Pence outlined the principles he shares with his fellow conservatives in a speech entitled “Another Time for Choosing,” which echoed the central theme of Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing.” As Reagan said, “Our task now is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home. We are not a cult; we are members of a majority. Let’s act and talk like it. The job is ours and the job must be done. If not by us, who? If not now, when?”

At the time of Pence’s speech, we concluded with sad accuracy that conservatives’ job would be much easier if President Bush would take the lead. When he needed to create a domestic “coalition of the willing,” he failed to articulate policies in such a way as to build national consensus. At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, it’s time to showcase conservative ideology, not bury it.

Put another way, it is the restoration of leadership – of national figures who can carry a message with vision, dignity and articulation – that America needs most. If Republicans have failed to meet this need, a Democrat majority will only make it more urgent.

If tossing them out on their posteriors is precisely what these Republicans deserve, we as citizens can hardly deserve what the Democrats would offer us instead. Think long and hard about this before Tuesday.

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