Friday, March 30, 2007

Can Chuck Hagel save the GOP from the Bushies?

I would have loved to have been there to see it. Just to be a fly on the wall and see the reaction. Dick Cheney interrupting his undisclosed schedule and hustled from his limousine into the Capitol from whatever undisclosed location that the Vice President normally executes his undisclosed duties, prepared to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate on the Emergency Funding Bill for the Iraq War. A funding bill with a difference. A funding bill putting limits on the United States military mission in Iraq, and setting a goal of withdrawing troops not involved in that limited mission by March of 2008. A similar resolution had been defeated in the Senate only a few weeks before. But this time Democratic Senator Ben Nelson would vote for the bill, and that meant it would likely result in a tie. The administration had already threatened to veto any bill with any timetable. But the veto would not be needed, if Cheney cast the deciding vote.
"... 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 Post
It 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:
"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. "
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":
"...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."
Both Glen Greenwald (from the left) and Andrew Sullivan (from the right) take Brooks to task:

"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."
"... 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."
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:
"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."
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.

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.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.


mw said...

Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I spent some time on your site and conclude that the country and the Republican party would be better off now if the voters in your district had been wiser about how they invested their votes.

I've blogrolled your site and linked one of your essays from this post.

I don't know if you will be taking another crack at it, but if so - godspeed and thanks for your service. - mw

Eric Dondero said...

I'm usually not one for purges, but if there's ever been a candidate for a purge from the Republican Party it's Chuck Hagel. He is the anti-Republican. He defacto supports Islamo-Fascism by his opposition to the War in Iraq. He is fiercely anti-Liberty.

Eric Dondero at

Richard B. Simon said...

You nailed it, bud.

The Bush family has a governing principle, as I once heard enunciated by GHWB: "whatever it takes to get elected."

That's why young Prescott just joined a champagne unit in the Coast Guard; he's unlikely to ever be sent abroad, but when he runs for President, he'll say he served during wartime.

The GOP has sold its soul; it's unfortunate. This country runs best when ideas from both (all?) sides are considered, weighed, rectified, and put into effect.

The reason Iraq is such a mess is that the country has been running only on GOP ideas for six years. Try running your computer on half (well, maybe less than half) its CPU. Now try using it to pacify Iraq.

The Bushists are a fascist outfit; hence their vision of a one-party state: the Permanent Republican Majority. DeLay and Frist enabled this. And they have used the "War on Terror", much as fascist movements in history used world-changing projects, to motivate the American people into giving them more money and more power.


Joe Leonardi said...


Thanks I will blog roll you also.


21st Century Politics said...

Confusing isn't it? Today's politics. Big government verses limited government. It amazes me that no one on these political blogs discuss simply . . . that what our country needs today is the right kind of government period.

Joe Leonardi said...


I just read over some of your comments. I don't get the one my Eric at all... But anyway I don't know if you've had a chance to stop by but here is my latest post. While it doesn't directly talk about Hagel, it mentions him and all the pro-surgers who just talk


mw said...

Eric is a man on a mission. His mission is to get Rudy Giuliani nominated as the Republican candidate for President. In his single minded pursuit of this mission, he will not allow inconvenient facts to clutter his promotional efforts. For reasons that are unclear to me, he feels that ad hominem attacks on Chuck Hagel supports this effort. Frankly, I think it has the opposite effect, particularly when the stuff he is spewing is so easily refuted. Too bad, because I actually think that Rudy would make a fine President. It is highly probable that Rudy (being the smart pol that he is) would back pedal from the Bush administration's incompent prosecution of the war in Iraq once the nomination is secured.

Anonymous said...

hey, i realize i'm a little late to the game here but figured i'd chime in anyways. for a great post on bush loyalists be sure to check out The Existentialist Cowboy's Bush is on a mission from God at

it is also worth noting that the republican congress has not acted on behalf of voters for six years. they act on behalf of their constituents - corporations.

finally, i can't help agree with greenwald and sullivan that brooks is full of crap - always full of crap. you can read just some examples garnered from the last two columns of his that i read here:

granted, i am not playing on the same theoretical level but if you can't pass the b.s. test on the simple stuff i don't think you deserve any further looks.

finally, hagel is interesting and has even earned the praise of progressives like robert scheer. but i can't get beyond the fact that he is only in the senate b/c he rigged an election. personally i'd like to see him run in 2008 in hopes that it shines a spotlight on e-voting issues.