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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Conservatives Are Leaving Bush, GOP

Andrew Grossman at the Heritage Policy Blog brings news of what appears to be a back-channel attempt by the Senate to forge a "compromise" with the House on the emergency spending bill for the military in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

Not coincidentally, this news comes the same week a number of new surveys show conservatives are abandoning President Bush and the number of respondents saying they will vote to keep Republicans in control of Congress at levels that virtually assure a Democratic takeover in November.

The compromise Grossman reports being floated by aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would impose an across-the-board 13 percent reduction in the spending contained in the bill. Such a compromise would let all those GOP big spenders tell the folks back home about how they really got tough and cut that terrible emergency spending bill by 13 percent across the board.

It's a "win-win" deal, to put it in Washingtonese. No messy election-year confrontation between Senate and House GOP leaders, no need for President Bush to, finally after six years in the White House, actually veto a bloated spending bill. Everybody gets to look tough on waste, everybody wins, right?

Actually, no. Such an across-the-board cut would be a political illusion meant to convey a false message and thereby further distort reality. The false message is that Congress is finally clamping down on unnecessary spending and imposing new spending discipline across-the-board.

Note: Expect to hear this "across-the-board-spending-cut" mantra over and over from GOP proponents of this deal. No matter how many times proponents use that phrase (remember Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority" repitition?) , however, the only way such an approach be taken seriously would be to apply it to all spending bills.

The reality is the compromise would preserve the bulk of the earmarks treasured by the Senate's Old Bulls while reducing funding needed by the military in the War against Terrorism.

Maybe the $700 million "Railroad to Nowhere" championed by Mississippi senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran would be reduced 13 percent but it would still be funded at some level. At worst, such a compromise would be a pebble in the road to earmark heaven for folks like Cochran, Lott and a bunch of other GOP senators.

This is the kind of fundamental smoke and mirrors dishonesty that has helped fuel the biggest increase in federal spending and entitlements since World War II ... under a Republican Congress and a Republican President, both of which were elected in great part because they promised to complete the job begun by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Since George W. Bush took office in 2001, he and the Republican majorities in the Senate and House have talked the talk on cutting federal spending and reducing the power and influence of government but they haven't walked it.

In fact, they have run about as fast as their political legs would take them in the opposite direction, piling up thousands of special interest earmarks, adding the biggest expansion of entitlement spending since 1965, pushing failed federal programs in areas like education to record heights and increasing the national debt to previously unimagined levels.

Put another way, they've done pretty much what a Democratic president and Congress would have done had the election of 1994 not prompted Bill Clinton's hollow 1995 State of the Union proclamation that "the era of Big Government is over."

Bush and the Republicans in Congress have done this with tactics that often have reminded of those used by the Democrats during the 40 years they held sway before 1994. Just think of how the administration held back cost estimates it knew would kill its Medicare prescription drug proposal.

But not even Sam Rayburn went as far as Speaker Dennis Hastert who took the unprecedented action of holding the House at bay for hours until administration lobbyists could dragoon enough Members to vote for the prescription drug bill.

Frankly, my sad expectation is that the Senate and House conferees probably will go along with some sort of fake compromise along the lines of the 13 percent across-the-board cut and Bush will sign the bill. They will think that once again they have finessed the voters, the Democrats, the mainstream media and the conservative base of the Republican party.

That is what we get with incumbents who don't have to worry about getting re-elected, thanks to all those incumbent protection measures they've passed over the years. It has produced a culture of political and legislative corruption that infects both major parties and renders Congress incapable of doing what the nation so desperately needs on critical issues.

Yes, Bush has been tough on defense, he has put two excellent conservative jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court and he persuaded Congress to cut taxes. But the nation's increasingly perilous financial straits sooner or later will undermine even those accomplishments.

Millions of conservatives across the country worked so hard for so many years for a GOP majority in Congress and a GOP President and for all those years they were told that doing so would produce genuine change in Washington, even the consumation and completion of the Reagan Revolution.

Now, with another legislative subterfuge in the offing, we see all too clearly that we've been taken for a ride. Come November, the ride will be over for a bunch of Republicans who think the base "has nowhere to go."

UPDATE: "Smoke and Mirrors" Border Protection, Too

U.S. Border Patrol agents provide continuous information to the Mexican government about the locations of Minutemen, the private volunteers who stepped forward to do what Washington refuses to do - protect America's border. Note that this scoop was first reported by The Inland Valley Bulletin, a medium-size California daily, not The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Michelle Malkin goes through the official response from the Department of Homeland Security and demonstrates that DHS is playing the same kind of smoke and mirrors distortion of the facts that increasingly characterizes official responses on many issues.

Why can't people in Washington simply tell the truth? "Yes, we are tipping off the Mexicans" or "no, we aren't." James, the natural brother of Jesus, had it right in the 12th verse of the fifth chapter of his book in the New Testament.

UPDATE II: Can Conservatives Be Fooled Again?

Karl Rove has a plan to stir up the conservative base with fears of how much worse things will be if the Democrats win the November congressional elections, according to The Washington Post:

"Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and GOP leaders are well aware of the problem and are planning a summer offensive to win back conservatives with a mix of policy fights and warnings of how a Democratic Congress would govern. The plan includes votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending."

Rove's strategy is well reflected in this interview of Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman for the Glenn and Helen Show. Also, don't miss their talk with Michael Barone who knows more about American politics than any other five people I know.

As for the Rove plan, I am intensely skeptical because it sounds so familiar - throw the Right some election year bones, so they'll "come back," then once we're safely re-elected, go on our merry earmark-laden way. It will work, Rove thinks, because the Right "has nowhere else to go."

What about the borders? What about the 11 million illegal aliens already in the country? What about the earmarks? What about the judges who still haven't been confirmed? What about the expansion of federal power since 2001? What about the $25 billion the government admits it can't account for last year?

Why should conservatives believe things will be any different after the election if the conservatives do turn out and save the GOP's hide yet again? That's exactly what the GOP Establishment has been doing for decades --- talking the talk just long enough to get elected, and then mostly dropping the issues the base cares about until the next election.

Will we be fooled again?