WS>>Left Turn

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Mon Nov 10 20:32:24 MST 2003

          Is the GOP conservative?
          By NR Editors
          National Review

          The news this summer has been rather bleak for  conser-
     vatives. The Supreme Court first decided to write  "diversi-
     ty"  into  the Constitution. A few days later, it  issued  a
     ruling on sodomy laws that called into question its willing-
     ness to tolerate any state laws based on traditional  under-
     standings of sexual morality. In neither case was there much
     pretense  that  the Court was merely following the  law.  At
     this  point it takes real blindness to deny that  the  Court
     rules us and, on emotionally charged policy issues, rules us
     in  accord with liberal sensibilities. And while  the  Court
     issued its edicts and the rest of the world adjusted, a huge
     prescription-drug  bill made its way through Congress.  That
     bill will add at least $400 billion to federal spending over
     the  next ten years, and it comes on top of already  gargan-
     tuan  spending increases over the last five years. The  fact
     that  a pro-growth tax cut is going into effect this  summer
     hardly compensates for these developments especially  since
     expanding entitlements threaten to exert upward pressure  on
     tax rates in the future.

           Republicans  have  been  complicit in  each  of  these
     debacles.  Both the affirmative-action and sodomy  decisions
     were  written by Reagan appointees. President Bush  actually
     cheered the affirmative-action decision for recognizing  the
     value of "diversity." Bush has requested spending increases,
     and  not  just  for defense and homeland  security.  He  has
     failed  to  veto  spending increases that  went  beyond  his
     requests. But let it not be said that the president has  led
     his  party  astray.  Many  congressional  Republicans   have
     strayed  even more enthusiastically. Bush originally  wanted
     to condition prescription-drug benefits on seniors'  joining
     reformed,  less  expensive health plans. When the  idea  was
     raised,  House Speaker Denny Hastert called  it  "inhumane."
     Congressional appropriators the people who write the spend-
     ing bills have been known to boast that they would beat the
     president if ever he dared to veto one of their products.

           We  have  never  been under any  illusions  about  the
     extent  of Bush's conservatism. He did not run in 2000 as  a
     small-government  conservative, or as someone  who  relished
     ideological combat on such issues as racial preferences  and
     immigration.  We supported him nonetheless in the hope  that
     he would strengthen our defense posture, appoint originalist
     judges, liberalize trade, reduce tax rates, reform  entitle-
     ments,  take modest steps toward school choice. Progress  on
     these  fronts would be worth backsliding elsewhere. We  have
     been largely impressed with Bush's record on national secur-
     ity,  on judicial appointments (although the big test  of  a
     Supreme Court vacancy will apparently not occur during  this
     term), and on taxes. On the other issues he has so far  been
     unable to deliver.

           It is not Bush's fault that Democrats oppose  entitle-
     ment reform, or that the public wants it less than it  wants
     a new entitlement to prescription drugs. He should, however,
     have  used the veto more effectively to  restrain  spending.
     Had  he  vetoed the farm bill, for example,  Congress  would
     have sent him a better one. We need presidential  leadership
     on  issues other than war and taxes. Instead we are  getting
     the first full presidential term to go without a veto  since
     John  Quincy Adams. Bush's advisers may worry that for  Bush
     to  veto  the bills of a Republican  Congress  would  muddle
     party distinctions for voters. But this dilemma results from
     a  failure  of imagination. Why must  the  House  Republican
     leadership always maintain control of the floor? When  Demo-
     crats and liberal Republicans have the votes to pass a bill,
     sometimes  it  would be better to let them do so,  and  then
     have  the president veto it. The alternative  cobbling  to-
     gether  some lite version of a liberal bill in order to  eke
     out  a congressional majority is what really makes it  hard
     to press the case against big-spending Democrats.

           The defeats on racial preferences, gay rights, and the
     role of the courts generally reflect a conservative  politi-
     cal  failure that predates this  administration.  Republican
     politicians have never been comfortable talking about  moral
     or  race-related issues, and have been eager to  slough  off
     these responsibilities to the courts. Their silence is  not,
     however,  only an abdication of responsibility; it  is  also
     politically  foolish. Opposition to racial  preferences  and
     gay marriage is popular in every state of the Union. And  if
     the courts are going to block social conservatives from ever
     achieving  legislative victories and Republicans  will  not
     even  try to do anything about it social conservatives  may
     well  conclude  that there is no point to  participating  in
     normal politics. There goes the Republican majority.

           To  get back on track will require effort from  Presi-
     dent  Bush,  congressional  Republicans,  and  conservatives
     generally.  Bush ought to bear down on spending; we  suggest
     that  an assault on corporate welfare, followed by a  reform
     of the appropriations process, would be a fine start. Repub-
     licans need a strategy for dealing with the judicial usurpa-
     tion  of politics that goes beyond trying to make  good  ap-
     pointments  to  the bench a strategy that now  has  a  two-
     generation track record of nearly unrelieved failure. On gay
     marriage, a constitutional amendment appears to be necessary
     to forestall the mischief of state and federal courts. But a
     mere  statute can make the point that Congress controls  the
     federal judiciary's purview. Congressman Todd Akin's bill to
     strip the federal judiciary of jurisdiction over the  Pledge
     of  Allegiance  has the votes to pass the House, and  has  a
     powerful  Senate  sponsor in  Judiciary  Committee  chairman
     Orrin Hatch. It should be high on the Republican agenda.

           Conservatives, finally, have to find ways to work with
     the  Republicans  their  fortunes are  linked  while  also
     working  on them. The Pennsylvania Senate primary  offers  a
     choice  between  a  candidate who is  conservative  on  both
     economics  and  social issues, Pat Toomey, and  one  who  is
     conservative  on neither, the incumbent, Arlen Specter.  The
     White  House and the party establishment has rallied  behind
     Specter.  But President Bush's goals would be better  served
     by  a Senator Toomey. And as recent events underscore,  this
     is  not a bad time for conservatives to declare their  inde-
     pendence from the GOP establishment.

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