Disillusioned Bushies Waving the White Flag

Readers of the October issue of The Washington Monthly may have rubbed their eyes when they read the following by Richard A. Viguerie, a man who may be accurately characterized as a hard-right Republican:

“But a Republican loss of one or both houses of Congress would turn power over to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Dare we risk such an outcome?

“The answer is, we must take that chance. If Big Government Republicans behave so irresponsibly and betray the people who elected them, while we blindly, slavishly continue backing them, we establish that there is no price to pay for violating conservative principles. If we give in, we are forgetting the lesson that mothers teach their daughters: Why buy a cow when the milk is free?”

One can only imagine with what reluctance Mr. Viguerie penned these words when you consider that at least some of us who often vote Democratic entertain an opinion of Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid scarcely more favorable than Mr. Viguerie’s. Officials who betray the people who elected them should be thrown out of their jobs—something we may want to remember if the D’s get control of Congress and maintain the “culture of corruption” by which many members of both parties have gotten rich.

Mr. Viguerie is a noteworthy individual. He is responsible for raising untold millions for Republican candidates over the years. He did not do it by going to the fat felines. To Mr. Viguerie goes the credit of developing a huge G.O.P. base of small contributors, thereby giving rank-and-file sentiment in the party a power that rank-and-filers of the other party do not have. Even after the coming of Moveon.org, the Democrats remain a party dominated by big contributors, thus all but assuring that on an array of key issues, a Democratic victory in November will be something less than the dawning of a new day.

Any Republican who votes Democratic this year has a lot to overlook, as Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, writes in another of the pieces. “With Democrats controlling Congress, we could expect command-and-control laws requiring windmills on every farm, photovoltaic cells in every home, and hydrogen fuel in every car. In foreign affairs … [they] have no philosophical starting point …. So conservatives should weep if Democrats prevail in the House or Senate. But perhaps not.”

Yet Mr. Fein is putting aside all of that because, as he writes, “Republicans in Congress have bowed to the president’s scorn for the rule of law and craving for secret government. They have voted against Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold’s resolution to rebuke Bush for violating federal statutes and crippling checks and balances.”

To save the Constitution, Mr. Fein is abandoning his party this year and looking to Democrats like Russell Feingold, who, more often than not, has been ignored and left unsupported by his fellow party members. The winter favorite for the Democratic Presidential nomination is Hillary Clinton, a politician whose record suggests that she will stand for the Bill of Rights only if the polling indicates that it will up her approval ratings.

Nobody has a better claim to an illustrious seat in the Far Right Hall of Fame than Bruce Bartlett, the supply-side economist who served in the Reagan and Father Bush administrations and has been connected to the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. He writes that if the Democrats gain control of Congress, “they’ll suddenly have to put up or shut up. Let them defund the war and implement an immediate pullout if that’s what they really think we should do …. It will force a debate on issues that have been swept under the rug, such as out-of-control government spending and the coziness between Republicans and K Street, home of Washington’s lobbying community.”

But will the Democrats do what Mr. Bartlett hopes? Are they capable of defunding the war or anything else? How are they going to debate “the coziness between Republicans and K Street” without throwing a spotlight on the coziness between Democrats and K Street?

The New York State party has just nominated Andrew Cuomo for State Attorney General, a man who may not epitomize a culture of corruption, but a public figure whose jobs, favors and money contacts will make it hard for him to pass the smell test. (For a depressing rundown on Mr. Cuomo, look no farther than Wayne Barrett in the Sept. 5 issue of The Village Voice.) Whatever else a Democratic win in November brings, it will not be a refreshingly new breeze.

Another loud voice coming from the right belongs to Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida and now a television performer. This man who played a strong part in the Gingrich years writes:

“With Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, spending growth has averaged 10.4 percent per year. And the G.O.P.’s reckless record goes well beyond runaway defense costs …. Incredibly, the four bureaucracies once targeted for elimination by the G.O.P. Congress—Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development—have enjoyed spending increases of an average of 85 percent.”

A Democratic President did contain spending in the 1990’s, but why did he? Would he have been as parsimonious had he not been elected thanks to Ross Perot, the man who made economy and public debt a live, vote-winning issue?

On the other hand, controlling spending may be accomplished through political hydraulics. So writes William A. Niskanen, an economist of some importance in the Reagan administration and now the head of the Cato Institute, who wants the Democrats to take over Congress because a politically divided government keeps spending in check. The numbers prove it, he says: “ … government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government. This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government.”

Jeffrey Hart’s essay is a reminder that not all conservatives care about money. Hart, a former Nixon and Reagan speechwriter and currently a National Review editor, is one of these. So Mr. Hart writes: “ … Bush himself had said, ‘We need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God.’ In this chilling use of the word ‘God,’ the president made his views on the rule of law all too clear.

“Indeed, Bush would probably be more at home among the revolutionary French … than among Burke’s Rockingham Whigs,” he writes. For Mr. Hart, “The Constitution itself is a Burkean document …. ” But, he adds, “President Bush has nearly upended that tradition, abandoning traditional realism in favor of a warped and incoherent brand of idealism,” so that “we must depend on the decisions of an astonishingly feckless chief executive: an empty vessel filled with equal parts Rove and Rousseau.”

For thoughtful conservatives, reeling from six years of this devastating administration, Christopher Buckley cries out, “What have they done to my party? Where does one go to get it back?”

For an answer, he says: “It’s time for a time-out. Time to hand over this sorry enchilada to Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and Charlie Rangel and Harry Reid …. Or, with any luck, to Mark Warner or, what the heck, Al Gore …. My fellow Republicans, it is time, as Madison said in Federalist 76, to ‘Hand over the tiller of governance, that others may fuck things up for a change.’”

Let’s hope that the Democrats, as the prospective new fuckers-up, will stay humble and remember how little they have to offer.

Disillusioned Bushies Waving the White Flag