"... the White House freshened the threat a few hours before the vote and again afterward. "The president is disappointed that the Senate continues down a path with a bill that he will veto and has no chance of becoming law,"... Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to the Capitol in case his vote was needed to break a tie, a measure of the importance the administration places on the issue." - Washington PostIt looked like this time Dick Cheney would be "The Decider", and cast that vote to defeat the measure. He had prepared a brief, direct and strong statement ready for an impromptu press briefing to be conducted immediately after the vote. Dick Cheney was looking forward to delivering that statement. That is when I would have liked to be that fly on the wall. When Dick Cheney was informed that Chuck Hagel decided to put principle over party and vote for the resolution. On this day, Dick Cheney was not "the decider". On this day it was Chuck Hagel who cast the deciding vote.
But this post is not really about Chuck Hagel, or Dick Cheney. This post is about the Republican Party and its continued drift further and further from the main stream of American thought. With this bill the Senate, like the House, was simply conducting the people's business. The bill, with the reduced mission, and goal of redeployment in 2008, accurately reflects the will of the majority of Americans. From the Pew Research Center this week:
"A solid majority of Americans say they want their congressional representative to support a bill calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by August 2008. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say they would like to see their representative vote for such legislation, compared with just 33% who want their representative to oppose it. "
Hence the problem for Republicans in 2008 - the administration is defying the will of a growing majority of Americans, as reflected in the survey, and as evidenced by the mid-term elections.
Now, in truth, this bill deserves a veto. Not because of the Iraq war redeployment timeframe, but because the Democrats stuffed it full of pork to secure enough votes to get it passed. It won't break my heart to see it vetoed for that reason alone. In that regard, the veto is an example of divided government in action, restraining the growth of federal spending. A leaner bill will result from the veto.
My fear is that our happily divided government will be but a fleeting respite from the disaster of single party control if the administration continues down this path. As oulined in previous posts, it will be almost impossible for the Democrats to lose either house of congress in 2008. The only way to maintain a divided government will be to elect a Republican President in 2008. Whether out of arrogance, hubris, delusion, or simple incompetence, this administration is apparently willing to destroy any electoral hope for the Republicans in 2008 as a consequence of it's intransigence on the war.
Ryan Sager wrote in 'The Elephant in the Room" about the fracturing of the historically successful fusion between fiscal and social conservatives in the Republican party. He warns that a widening schism between the libertarian and evangelical wings in the Republican party could doom the parties chances in 2008 and beyond. In the last few days, it became clear to me that while the split he describes is real, it is fracturing on a different fault line. The split is between the traditional Conservative Republican (which includes both evangelicals and libertarians) and Republicans who are best described as "Bushies". I am not using that term as a perjorative, it is exactly how they define themselves. Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle took notice:
Now, Jon Carroll is admittedly a San Francisco liberal and easy to dismiss. But, remarkably, his theme is echoed by conservative David Brooks in a column in the New York Times entitled "No U-Turns". In that column Brooks rejects the intellectual foundation of conservatism, and writes what could more accurately be titled "The Bushie Manifesto":
"The other interesting thing is the use by now-resigned Justice Department employee Kyle Sampson of the phrase "loyal Bushies." ...George W. Bush and the Republican Party are not coterminous. It would be hard to describe the belief system of a loyal Bushie, other than unquestioning faith in George W. Bush. Would he be in favor of reduced government spending, increased individual liberties, a conservative and prudent foreign policy? Nope. George W. Bush does not stand for any of those things. Loyal Bushies can be counted on to do the right thing, the Bush thing, whenever a thing needs doing. That's the belief system. "
Both Glen Greenwald (from the left) and Andrew Sullivan (from the right) take Brooks to task:
"...President Bush sensed this shift in public consciousness back in 1999. Compassionate conservatism was an attempt to move beyond the “liberty vs. power” paradigm. But because it was never fleshed out and because the Congressional G.O.P. rejected the implant, a new Republican governing philosophy did not emerge. The party is going to have to make another run at it. As it does, it will have to shift mentalities. The “security leads to freedom” paradigm doesn’t end debate between left and right, it just engages on different ground. It is oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?). Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they’re not models for the future."
"It would maximize clarity in our political discussions if journalists could just ingest Brooks' central point: the dominant right-wing political movement in this country that has spawned and driven the Bush presidency has nothing to do with -- it is in fact overtly hostile to -- the ostensible principles of Goldwater/Reagan small-government conservatism. Though today's so-called "conservatives" exploit the Goldwater/Reagan mythology as a political prop, they don't believe in those principles in any way. That movement is the very antithesis of those principles... Brooks admits what has been crystal clear for some time -- namely, that so-called "conservatives" (meaning the contemporary political "Right") no longer believe (if they ever did) that government power should be restrained in order to maximize freedom. That belief system, says Brooks, is an obsolete relic which arose out of the the 1970s, and has been replaced by the opposite desire -- for expanded government power on every front."
I have wondered before about the incredible animus toward Chuck Hagel evident from some on the right. It never made sense to me. Chuck Hagel is by any measure a conservative's conservative:
"... the Brooks experiment in turning the GOP into a religious, statist party for cronies and incompetents has been a disaster for Republicanism and a catastrophe for conservatism. Given no true conservative alternative, voters have gone back to the Dems. Brooks was an intellectual architect of both visions - massive intervention abroad, and warmed-over socialism at home. No wonder the conservative coalition has fallen apart, and people are now backing Democrats... The classic dodge: national greatness conservatism - big spending at home, big wars abroad - wasn't tried and therefore didn't fail. Please. It was tried, David, with bells on, and it has failed so spectacularly you need glasses with neocon thickness not to see it. In fact, its manifest failure may consign conservatism to the political wilderness for a generation - and has deeply increased the security dangers America now faces... Until the GOP thoroughly purges itself of the impulses of the Bush era - impulses enabled and supported by Brooks - they're finished. And they deserve to be."
Now I finally get it. Chuck Hagel is not a problem for traditional Republicans in the Goldwater/Reagan tradition. Chuck Hagel is not a problem for limited government, freedom-loving, libertarian conservatives. Chuck Hagel is a big problem for the "Bushie" statists.
"Look at his record, and you see a bona fide fiscal conservative, a social conservative, a successful entrepreneur, a limited government Republican in the Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater tradition and a decorated Vietnam war combat veteran. He is tough on crime, strong on defense, pro-gun with an "A" rating from the NRA, supports low taxes and limited spending, was rated a "Taxpayers Friend" by the NTU, is pro-business with an 87% rating from the US Chamber of Commerce, and even secured a 0% rating from NARAL indicating a perfect pro-life voting record."
I would like to think that the "Bushies" are wildly over-represented in the blogosphere, and there is a much larger plurality of traditional conservative Republicans (both libertarian and evangelical) in the electorate at large. I'd like to think that, but I am not sure. If the traditional conservative Republican base is alive and well, Chuck Hagel may yet lead the party back from the brink of disaster in 2008.