"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"


Seven Conservatives: It's Time For Us to Go!
1) Restrain this White House

By Bruce Fein
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

Suppose Democrats capture control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. A conservative would instinctively cringe. On the domestic front, Democrats still don't get Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which teaches the superiority of free markets to government-regulated markets euphemistically styled "industrialization policy" or otherwise. Smith lacerated the economic philosophy of modern Democrats: "The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it." 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, Democrats are stalled in the horse latitudes. They have no philosophical starting point. They sport no strategy for confronting the nuclear ambitions of Iran or North Korea, the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the growing friction between Japan on the one hand and China and South Korea on the other. Beating swords into plowshares and making war no more is not a strategy but utopian faith.

So conservatives should weep if Democrats prevail in the House or Senate.

But perhaps not.

The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive."

But a Republican Congress has done nothing to thwart President George W. Bush's alarming usurpations of legislative prerogatives. Instead, it has largely functioned as an echo chamber of the White House.

President Bush has flouted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) for five years by directing the National Security Agency to target American citizens on American soil for electronic surveillance on his say-so alone. The president has defended his warrantless domestic spying with an imperial theory of inherent constitutional power that would empower him to open mail, break in and enter homes, or torture detainees, even in violation of federal criminal statutes. He has concealed details of the spying program indispensable to rational congressional oversight—for example, the number of Americans targeted, the earmarks employed to select the targets, or the intelligence yield of the spying. He has never explained to Congress why FISA could not have been amended to accommodate any unforeseen evasive tactics by al Qaeda in lieu of simply disregarding the law. Indeed, Congress has amended FISA six times since 9/11 at the request of the White House, and the Senate Intelligence Committee was informed by Bush's Justice Department on July 31, 2002, that FISA was working impeccably. The president has also refused to disclose what legal advice he received to justify the NSA's warrantless domestic spying at its inception. And Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has confessed that President Bush is operating other intelligence collection programs that are unknown to Congress and the public and that will never be revealed, absent leaks to the media.

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. They have resisted brandishing either the power of the purse or the contempt power (with which it can compel testimony) to end the president's violation of FISA and to force full disclosure of his secret foreign-intelligence programs. Indeed, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, is sponsoring a bill that in substance endorses President Bush's FISA illegalities and authorizes an electronic-surveillance program warrant that would enable the NSA to spy on Americans indiscriminately without the particularized suspicion of wrongdoing required by the Fourth Amendment.

Republicans in the House and Senate have been equally invertebrate in the face of presidential signing statements that usurp the power to legislate. In approximately 800 cases, President Bush has both signed a bill and declared his intent to disregard provisions he believes are unconstitutional, the equivalent of a line-item veto. For instance, he signed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibiting torture while issuing a signing statement declaring his intent to ignore the law in order to gather military or foreign intelligence.

The Presentment Clause of Article I, Section 7 gives the president but two options when presented with a bill passed by Congress: sign or veto the bill in its entirety. That was the holding of the Supreme Court when it found a line-item veto statute unconstitutional in 1998's Clinton v. City of New York. The president is obligated to veto a bill that he believes to be unconstitutional; Congress may override that judgment by two-thirds majorities. In the 217-year history of the United States under the present Constitution, Congress has overridden only 28 constitutionally based vetoes, and on only one occasion did the override engender a constitutional battle between the president and Congress. Presidential signing statements further usurp the legislative power by resulting in the enforcement of laws that Congress has not passed. Members vote on all the provisions of a law collectively in the expectation that all will be executed if the president approves.

Signing statements also flout the president's obligation in Article II of the Constitution to execute the laws faithfully. The Founding Fathers were acutely aware of the example of King James II, whose practice of suspending or dispensing with laws he believed encroached on royal prerogatives eventually occasioned his overthrow in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. With such precedents in mind, the framers of the United States Constitution directed the president to execute the laws without fail. The Republican Congress, however, has acted as a disinterested spectator while President Bush has stolen its legislative authority in plain view and exercised the tyrannical power of making, executing, and conclusively interpreting the law and the Constitution.

The most frightening claim made by Bush with congressional acquiescence is reminiscent of the lettres de cachet of prerevolutionary France. (Such letters, with which the king could order the arrest and imprisonment of subjects without trial, helped trigger the storming of the Bastille.) In the aftermath of 9/11, Mr. Bush maintained that he could pluck any American citizen out of his home or off of the sidewalk and detain him indefinitely on the president's finding that he was an illegal combatant. No court could second-guess the president. Bush soon employed such monarchial power to detain a few citizens and to frighten would-be dissenters, and Republicans in Congress either cheered or fiddled like Nero while the Constitution burned. The Supreme Court ultimately entered the breach and repudiated the president in 2004's Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Republicans similarly yawned as President Bush ordained military tribunals to try accused war criminals based on secret evidence and unreliable hearsay in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. The Supreme Court again was forced to countervail the congressional dereliction by holding the tribunals illegal in 2006's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Republicans have shied from challenging Bush by placing party loyalty above institutional loyalty, contrary to the expectations of the Founding Fathers. They do so in the fear that embarrassing or discrediting a Republican president might reverberate to their political disadvantage in a reverse coat-tail effect.

Democrats, for their part, likewise place party above the Constitution, but their party loyalty at least creates an incentive to frustrate Bush's super-imperial presidency. This could help to restore checks and balances. For the foreseeable future, divided government is the best bet for preserving both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. If Democrats capture the House or Senate in November 2006, the danger created by Bush with a Republican-controlled Congress would be mitigated or eliminated.

But that only applies to the next two years. If Hillary Clinton wins the White House in 2008, conservatives should be equally zealous for Republicans to recapture Congress.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional and international lawyer with Bruce Fein & Associates and The Lichfield Group. He served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and was a member of the ABA Task Force on presidential signing statements.

Original Text



2) Idéologie has taken over
By Jeffrey Hart
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

With 9/11, George W. Bush was reborn (again). Until then, his presidency had been undistinguished and his poll numbers low. He had also made one particularly ominous decision. In August 2001, using an executive order, Bush blocked federal support for stem-cell research. In substance that was bad enough—like many people I oppose disease and early death—but equally disturbing was the mindset. Bush summed it up in 2004, when he described stem-cell research as a project "to destroy life to save life."

Wait a minute. Here Bush was using the same word, "life," to describe not only a minute clump of cells known as a blastocyst but also an actual human being. In this flagrant disconnect between words and actuality were the early indications of a profoundly ideological mindset.

Edmund Burke was the original enemy of ideology. In the slogans of the French philosophes, Burke saw something new and alarming in politics, and he struggled for language to describe it, writing of "abstract theory" and "metaphysical dogma." Burke was seeking a way to describe a belief system impervious to fact or experience, and he brought to bear a permanently valid analysis of human behavior and the role of social institutions. William F. Buckley once summed up Burke's outlook when he called conservatism the "politics of reality."


With 9/11, George W. Bush was reborn (again). Until then, his presidency had been undistinguished and his poll numbers low. He had also made one particularly ominous decision. In August 2001, using an executive order, Bush blocked federal support for stem-cell research. In substance that was bad enough—like many people I oppose disease and early death—but equally disturbing was the mindset. Bush summed it up in 2004, when he described stem-cell research as a project "to destroy life to save life."

Wait a minute. Here Bush was using the same word, "life," to describe not only a minute clump of cells known as a blastocyst but also an actual human being. In this flagrant disconnect between words and actuality were the early indications of a profoundly ideological mindset.

Edmund Burke was the original enemy of ideology. In the slogans of the French philosophes, Burke saw something new and alarming in politics, and he struggled for language to describe it, writing of "abstract theory" and "metaphysical dogma." Burke was seeking a way to describe a belief system impervious to fact or experience, and he brought to bear a permanently valid analysis of human behavior and the role of social institutions. William F. Buckley once summed up Burke's outlook when he called conservatism the "politics of reality."

Subscribe Online & Save 33%

But that was then. Today, the standard-bearer of "conservatism" in the United States is George W. Bush, a man who has taken the positions of an unshakable ideologue: on supply-side economics, on privatization, on Social Security, on the Terri Schiavo case, and, most disastrously, on Iraq. Never before has a United States president consistently adhered to beliefs so disconnected from actuality.

Bush's party has followed him on this course. It has approved Bush's prescription-drug plan, an incomprehensible and ruinously expensive piece of legislation. It has steadfastly backed the war in Iraq, even though the notion of nation-building was once anathema to the GOP. And it has helped run up federal indebtedness to unprecedented heights, leaving China to finance the debt.

Perhaps most damaging to the ideal of conservatism has been the influence of religious ideology. During the fight over whether to remove the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who had been in a vegetal state for 15 years, politicians began to say strange and feverish things. "She talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort," Majority whip Tom DeLay said of a woman for whom cognition of any kind was impossible. (Oxygen deprivation had liquefied her cerebral cortex.) Senate Majority leader Bill Frist examined Schiavo on videotape and deemed her "clearly responsive." As Schiavo's case fought its way through the courts, Republicans savaged judges for consistently sanctioning the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," threatened DeLay.

That members of the judiciary were being chastised for responding to the law as written rather than looking, presumably, to some sort of divine guidance was hardly surprising. In 2002, 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. The conservative writer Andrew Sullivan has aptly coined the term "Christianism" to refer to this merger of religiosity and politics.

As Bush's ideology leads from one disaster to another, one might ask: How far can it go? It has already brought us to Baghdad, an adventure so hopeless that Buckley recently mused, "If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign." The more we learn about what happened behind the scenes in the months leading up to the war in Iraq, the more apparent it becomes that evidence was twisted to fit preconceived notions. Those who produced evidence undermining the case for war were ignored or even punished. It was zealotry at its most calamitous.

On the subject of democratizing Iraq and the Middle East, Bush has voiced some of the most extraordinarily ideological statements ever made by a sitting president. "Human cultures can be vastly different," Bush told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in February  2003, shortly before the invasion of Iraq. "Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on earth…For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror."

Happy thoughts, breathtakingly false. If this amounts to a worldview, it's certainly not that of Burke. Indeed, Bush would probably be more at home among the revolutionary French, provided his taxes remained low, than among Burke's Rockingham Whigs. (Burke would of course deny Bush admission to the Whigs in the first place, as Bush would be seen as an ideological comrade of the philosophes —if a singularly unreflective one.) It's no surprise that longtime conservatives such as Francis Fukuyama, George F. Will, and William F. Buckley have all distanced themselves from Bush's brand of adventurism.

The United States has seen political swings and produced its share of extremists, but its political character, whether liberals or conservatives have been in charge, has always remained fundamentally Burkean. The Constitution itself is a Burkean document, one that slows down decisions to allow for "deliberate sense" and checks and balances. President Bush has nearly upended that tradition, abandoning traditional realism in favor of a warped and incoherent brand of idealism. (No wonder Bush supporter Fred Barnes has praised him as a radical.) At this dangerous point in history, we must depend on the decisions of an astonishingly feckless chief executive: an empty vessel filled with equal parts Rove and Rousseau.

Successful government by either Democrats or Republicans has always been, above all, realistic. FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan were all reelected by landslides and rank as great presidents who responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it. But ideological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They've earned it.

Meanwhile, as we wait out our time with this president, we can look forward to the latest in a stream of rhetoric that increasingly makes Woodrow Wilson look like Machiavelli. "One, I believe there's an Almighty," Bush declared this April, "and secondly I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live to be free. I believe liberty is universal."

Well, it is certainly taking a long time for the plans of the Almighty to show results in the actual world. As I write this, sectarian violence in Iraq is escalating. I'd call my skepticism "conservative," but Bushism has poisoned the very word.

Jeffrey Hart, professor of English emeritus at Dartmouth College and senior editor at National Review, was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He is the author, most recently, of The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times.

Original Text



3) Let's quit while we're behind
By Christopher Buckley
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

"The trouble with our times," Paul Valéry said, "is that the future is not what it used to be."

This glum aperçu has been much with me as we move into the home stretch of the 2006 mid-term elections and shimmy into the starting gates of the 2008 presidential campaign. With heavy heart, as a once-proud—indeed, staunch— Republican, I here admit, behind enemy lines, to the guilty hope that my party loses; on both occasions.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again. Neither could I bring myself to vote for John Kerry, who, for all his strengths, credentials, and talent, seems very much less than the sum of his parts. So, I wrote in a vote for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I worked as a speechwriter from 1981 to '83. I wish he'd won.

Bob Woodward asked Bush 43 if he had consulted his father before invading Iraq. The son replied that he had consulted "a higher father." That frisson you feel going up your spine is the realization that he meant it. And apparently the higher father said, "Go for it!" There are those of us who wish he had consulted his terrestrial one; or, if he couldn't get him on the line, Brent Scowcroft. Or Jim Baker. Or Henry Kissinger. Or, for that matter, anyone who has read a book about the British experience in Iraq. (18,000 dead.)

Anyone who has even a passing personal acquaintance of Bush 41 knows him to be, roughly speaking, the most decent, considerate, humble, and cautious man on the planet. Also, the most loving parent on earth. What a wrench it must be for him to pick up his paper every morning and read the now-daily debate about whether his son is officially the worst president in U.S. history. (That chuckling you hear is the ghost of James Buchanan.) To paraphrase another president, I feel 41's pain. Does 43 feel 41's? Does he, I wonder, feel ours?

There were some of us who scratched our heads in 2000 when we first heard the phrase "compassionate conservative." It had a cobbled-together, tautological, dare I say, Rovian aroma to it. But OK, we thought, let's give it a chance. It sounded more fun than Gore's "Prosperity for America's Families." (Bo-ring.)

Six years later, the White House uses the phrase about as much as it does "Mission Accomplished." Six years of record deficits and profligate expansion of entitlement programs. Incompetent expansion, at that: The actual cost of the President's Medicare drug benefit turned out, within months of being enacted, to be roughly one-third more than the stated price. Weren't Republicans supposed to be the ones who were good at accounting? All those years on Wall Street calculating CEO compensation....

Who knew, in 2000, that "compassionate conservatism" meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?

A more accurate term for Mr. Bush's political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism.

On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o'clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens's $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terri Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone's hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles? In what chapter of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom or Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind is that principle enunciated?

The Republican Party I grew up into—Dwight D. Eisenhower, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon (sigh), Ronald Reagan—stood for certain things. It did not always live up to its ideals. Au contraire, as we Republicans said in the pre-Dominique de Villepin era—often, it fell flat on its face. A self-proclaimed "conservative," Nixon kept the Great Society entitlement beast fat and happy and brought in wage and price controls. Reagan funked Social Security reform in 1983 and raised (lesser) taxes three times. He vowed to balance the budget, and drove the deficit to historic highs by failing to rein in government spending. Someone called it "Voodoo economics." You could Google it.

There were foreign misadventures, terrible ones: Vietnam (the '69-'75 chapters), Beirut, Iran-Contra, the Saddam Hussein tilt. But there were compensating triumphs: Eisenhower's refusal to bail out France in Indochina in 1954, Nixon's China opening, the Cold War victory.

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles.

George Tenet's WMD "slam-dunk," Vice President Cheney's "we will be greeted as liberators," Don Rumsfeld's avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves "neo-conservative" (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others' throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000—with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Just ask Hamas. And the neocons—bright people, all—are now clamoring, "On to Tehran!"

What have they done to my party? Where does one go to get it back?

One place comes to mind: the back benches. 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, who has the gift of being able to induce sleep in 30 seconds. Or, with any luck, to Mark Warner or, what the heck, Al Gore. I'm not much into polar bears, but this heat wave has me thinking the man might be on to something.

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."

(Or was it Federalist 78?)

Original Text



4) The show must not go on
By Richard A. Viguerie
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

With their record over the past few years, the Big Government Republicans in Washington do not merit the support of conservatives. They have busted the federal budget for generations to come with the prescription-drug benefit and the creation and expansion of other programs. They have brought forth a limitless flow of pork for the sole, immoral purpose of holding onto office. They have expanded government regulation into every aspect of our lives and refused to deal seriously with mounting domestic problems such as illegal immigration. They have spent more time seeking the favors of K Street lobbyists than listening to the conservatives who brought them to power. And they have sunk us into the very sort of nation-building war that candidate George W. Bush promised to avoid, while ignoring rising threats such as communist China and the oil-rich "new Castro," Hugo Chavez.

Conservatives are as angry as I have seen them in my nearly five decades in politics. Right now, I would guess that 40 percent of conservatives are ambivalent about the November election or want the Republicans to lose. 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?

And it may take a Republican defeat to bring about a complete change in the GOP leadership in Washington. Without such a change, real conservatives will never come to power. We are like the Jews who wandered the desert for 40 years until their old, corrupt leaders passed away; we will never reach the Promised Land with these guys in charge.

Yes, on the morning after the 2006 election, if liberal Democrats have won big, it will sting. Many in the media and in the GOP establishment will lay the blame on us for the Republican defeat. The party line will be that Republicans would have done better if they had been less conservative.

But the last 42 years have taught conservatives a simple lesson: If defeat comes because you stand firm for what you believe, and if you learn lessons that will help you win in the future, a defeat can hold the seeds of a hundred victories.

In 1964, conservatives created a national campaign for a somewhat reluctant Barry Goldwater, pushed his nomination through the Republican Convention—and suffered a disastrous defeat at the polls. Defeat came at the end of a campaign in which the media, at every opportunity, seconded liberals' charges that conservatives were bigots, neo-Nazis, and reckless crazies who, given political power, might destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust.

We were as thoroughly defeated as anyone can be in American politics. Remember that, following a 49-state defeat for the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972, Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress, and that, following another 49-state landslide defeat in 1984, they still controlled the House of Representatives. In 1965, conservatives had nothing—not even control of the Republican Party, whose establishment assigned us the full blame for the loss.

But we had planted the seeds.

Logistically, an estimated four million men and women had taken an active part in the Goldwater campaign. This was unprecedented in modern American politics. LBJ had only half as many workers, even though the Democratic voter pool was 50 percent larger.

In fundraising, the difference was even greater. The Goldwater campaign was the first popularly financed campaign in modern American history. The 1960 campaign, with between 40,000 and 50,000 individual contributors to Nixon and some 22,000 to Kennedy, was typical of the approach from previous years. Estimates of the number of contributors to Goldwater in 1964, combining federal, state, and local campaign groups, range from 650,000 to over a million. As you'd surmise from such an explosion in the number of contributors, individual and smaller contributors became hugely important. Only 28 percent of the Goldwater federal campaign contributions were for $500 or more, compared to 69 percent of the Democratic contributions.

We were learning how to mobilize grassroots Americans for door-to-door campaigning as well as raising money.

Meanwhile, we were learning how to get around the establishment media. We created our own channels of communication, using publications like National Review and Human Events, Goldwater's book The Conscience of a Conservative, and underground bestsellers like Phyllis Schlafly's A Choice, Not an Echo, John Stormer's None Dare Call It Treason, and J. Evetts Haley's A Texan Looks at Lyndon. Those books sold millions of copies without the benefit of a major publisher or reviews in major publications.

A New York Times article of the day expressed amazement that anyone would pay attention to these books distributed by mail-order straight from the authors' kitchens. What the Times failed to appreciate was the beginning of a communications revolution, of new and alternative media that allowed conservatives to fly under the radar of the so-called mainstream media. That revolution led to billions of political direct-mail messages from my company alone, and eventually to conservatives' use of talk radio, cable news, and the Internet.

Another beneficial effect of the 1964 defeat was that it cleared a lot of dead wood out of the Republican Party. That made it easier for us to increase our influence on the GOP, utilizing new technology, more effective techniques, and fresh ideas. The Watergate scandal in 1974 eliminated more of the Republican officeholders who had stood in the way of creating a more broad-based party.

Defeat stings, but conservatives should keep this in mind: Without the disastrous congressional election of 1974, which dramatically weakened the party establishment, Ronald Reagan would never have been able to mount a nearly-successful challenge, two years later, to an incumbent president of his own party.

Defeat stings, but if Ford had beaten Jimmy Carter, it is highly unlikely that we would have elected some 35 conservatives to the House as part of the "Newt Gingrich class," or that we would have beaten five powerful liberal Democratic senators with conservatives in 1980.

Without a President Carter, it is unlikely that Reagan would have been elected in 1980, or ever. The conservatives-can't-win stigma, which largely disappeared with Reagan's 1980 and 1984 landslides, would have continued indefinitely. Without Reagan's policies, we would probably not have experienced the technological revolution of the past 20 years. But it's possible that none of that would have mattered, because without Reagan's policies, the Soviet Union and the Soviet Empire probably would have remained in place, even as internal pressures pushed the USSR toward war using its full arsenal of nuclear and biological weapons.

Defeat stings, but the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 led directly to the Republican takeover two years later. (Some conservatives foresaw this. One of my associates, at an election night party in 1992, celebrated Clinton's victory by chanting, as a prediction for 1994, "Speaker Gingrich! Speaker Gingrich!") Had the hapless President George H.W. Bush been reelected, it is a near certainty that the Democrats would have retained control of Congress in 1994. In fact, they would probably have gained congressional seats in 1994, then picked up the White House as well in 1996. Someone like Al Gore might have been in the White House on 9/11.

Sometimes a loss for the Republican Party is a gain for conservatives. Often, a little taste of liberal Democrats in power is enough to remind the voters what they don't like about liberal Democrats and to focus the minds of Republicans on the principles that really matter. That's why the conservative movement has grown fastest during those periods when things seemed darkest, such as during the Carter administration and the first two years of the Clinton White House.

Conservatives are, by nature, insurgents, and it's hard to maintain an insurgency when your friends, or people you thought were your friends, are in power. A Republican loss this year could lead to a rebirth of the conservative movement, as a Third Force independent of any political party.

If Democrats win in November, it will seem like a dark time. But the darkest time comes before the dawn.

Richard A. Viguerie, president of ConservativeHQ.com: The Conservative Headquarters, is author of the new book, Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. His email is rav@conservativesbetrayed.com.

Original Text



5) Bring on Pelosi
By Bruce Bartlett
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

As a conservative who's interested in the long-term health of both my country and the Republican Party, I have a suggestion for the GOP in 2006: lose. Handing over at least one house of Congress to the other side of the aisle for the next two years would probably be good for everyone. It will improve governance in the country, and it will increase the chances of GOP gains in 2008.

Having one-party control of both houses of Congress and the White House may allow national action to be taken more quickly, but it's contrary to the spirit of our system of government. The Founding Fathers explicitly rejected a parliamentary arrangement, in which the executive and legislative branches are united under the same party. Not only did they separate the legislative and executive functions; they further divided the legislative function into two bodies with different numbers, different terms of service, and different election methods. (Remember that prior to the 17th Amendment, senators were elected by state legislatures.) In short, divided government was baked in the cake by the Founding Fathers, who wanted lawmaking to be slow and difficult, not quick and easy. They reasoned, wisely, that laws able to overcome their institutional obstacle course were more likely to be clearly considered, broadly supported, and equipped to stand the test of time.

Ronald Reagan had to contend with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives for all eight years of his presidency. This was no barrier to genuinely popular legislation, such as the 1981 tax cut. The White House simply had to work harder and make better arguments for its program. And Democratic control of the House helped make the 1986 Tax Reform Act one of the few major tax bills in history to which both Republicans and Democrats still point with pride. Similarly, Bill Clinton faced divided government for six of his eight years, and those years gave us the 1996 welfare-reform bill, which continues to have broad support.

These laws endured because they had legitimacy. It's unlikely that either party would single-handedly have produced anything as good. Indeed, one-party government encourages the majority to pass legislation using votes only from its own side and usually leads it to bargain first with those on its own extremes (those least willing to compromise on anything) instead of moderates across the aisle. This almost guarantees that controversial lawmaking will be the norm.

Divided government has other advantages, too. For one, it restrains government spending. The budget surpluses of the late 1990s resulted mainly from Bill Clinton's unwillingness to support the Republican Congress's priorities and its unwillingness to support his. For another, it improves our foreign policy. We had divided government during 36 of 55 years between 1947 and 2001, which meant that both parties had to take responsibility for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq (the first one). America is much more effective in the international arena when it has a high degree of bipartisanship in its foreign policy. In the not-too-distant past, Republicans including Arthur Vandenberg and Democrats including Daniel Patrick Moynihan understood this. With the current war in Iraq, however, Democrats who support the war are forced to oppose it, and Republicans who oppose the war are forced to support it. This makes other countries unsure of our resolve and commitments.

Those who worry that divided government would compromise our efforts in Iraq shouldn't be overly concerned. As the minority party, Democrats today are free to criticize our efforts in Iraq without having to offer constructive alternatives. But put them in the majority, and 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. At least it would force the administration to explain itself better and face some oversight, for which the Republican Congress has essentially abrogated all responsibility. Polls will quickly indicate which side has made the better case.

Finally, on a purely partisan level, I believe that loss of one or both houses will strengthen the Republican Party going into 2008. It will force a debate on issues that have been swept under the rug, such out-of-control government spending and the coziness between Republicans and K Street, home of Washington's lobbying community. Afterwards, the party will emerge stronger, with better arguments for keeping control of the White House. Also, Democrats may well be placed under so much pressure from their left-wing fringe that they'll be forced into politically self-destructive acts such as trying to impeach President Bush. Every Republican I know thinks Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the best things they have going for them. Giving these inept leaders higher profiles would be a gift to conservatives everywhere.

Bruce Bartlett is the author of Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, recently published by Doubleday.

Original Text



6) And we thought Clinton had no self-control
By Joe Scarborough
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

When The Washington Monthly reached me at my office recently, a voice on the other side of the line meekly asked if I would ever consider writing an article supporting the radical proposition that Republicans should get their brains beaten in this fall.

"Count me in!" was my chipper response. I also seem to remember muttering something about preferring an assortment of Bourbon Street hookers running the Southern Baptist Convention to having this lot of Republicans controlling America's checkbook for the next two years.

Maybe that's because right-wing, knuckle-dragging Republicans like myself took over Congress in 1994 promising to balance the budget and limit Washington's power. We were a nasty breed and had no problem blaming Bill and Hillary Clinton for everything from the exploding federal deficit to male pattern baldness. I suspected then, as I do now, that Hillary Clinton herself had something to do with "Love, American Style" and "Joanie Loves Chachi." And why not blame her? Back then, Newt Gingrich felt comfortable blaming the drowning of two little children on Democratic values. Hell. It was 1994. It just seemed like the thing to do.

The terminally rumpled Dick Armey (R-Whiskey Gulch) even went so far as to suggest that the Clintons might be Marxists, drawing an angry personal rebuke from Bubba himself. But 12 years later, it is Armey's fellow Republicans who should be sobered by the short and ugly history of Republican Supremacy.

Under Bill Clinton's presidency, discretionary spending grew at a modest rate of 3.4 percent. Not too bad for a Marxist, even considering that his worst instincts were tempered by a Republican Congress. (Well, his worst fiscal instincts.)

But compare Clinton's 3.4 percent growth rate to the spending orgy that has dominated Washington since Bush moved into town. With Republicans in charge of both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, spending growth has averaged 10.4 percent per year. And the GOP's reckless record goes well beyond runaway defense costs. The federal education bureaucracy has exploded by 101 percent since Republicans started running Congress. Spending in the Justice Department over the same period has shot up 131 percent, the Commerce Department 82 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services 81 percent, the State Department 80 percent, the Department of Transportation 65 percent, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development 59 percent. Incredibly, the four bureaucracies once targeted for elimination by the GOP Congress—Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development—have enjoyed spending increases of an average of 85 percent.

It's enough to make economic conservatives long for the day when Marxists were running the White House.

This must all be shocking to my Republican friends who still believe our country would be a better place if our party controlled every branch of government as well as every news network, movie studio, and mid-American pulpit. But evidence suggests that divided government may be what Washington needs the most.

During the 1990s, conservative Republicans and the Clinton White House somehow managed to balance the budget while winning two wars, reforming welfare, and conducting an awesome impeachment trial focused on oral sex and a stained Gap dress.

The fact that both parties hated each another was healthy for our republic's bottom line. A Democratic president who hates a Republican appropriations chairman is less likely to sign off on funding for the Midland Maggot Festival being held in the chairman's home district. Soon, budget negotiations become nasty, brutish, and short and devolve into the legislative equivalent of Detroit, where only the strong survive.

But in Bush's Washington, the capital is a much clubbier place where everyone in the White House knows someone on the Hill who worked with the Old Man, summered in Maine, or pledged DKE at Yale. The result? Chummy relationships, no vetoes, and record-breaking debts.

As a political junkie who wept bitter tears the night Jimmy Carter got elected and shouted with uncontrolled joy when Ronald Reagan whipped his sorry ass four years later, I find myself ambivalent for the first time over a national election. After six years of Republican recklessness at home and abroad, I seriously doubt Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or the aforementioned Bourbon Street hookers could spend this country any deeper into debt than my Republican Party. With any luck, Democrats will launch destructive investigations, a new era of bad feelings will break out, and George W. Bush will stop using his veto pen to fill in Rangers' box scores and instead start using it like a conservative president should.

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and member of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001, is the author of Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day (HarperCollins).

Original Text



7) Give divided government a chance
By William A. Niskanen
The Washington Monthly, October 2006

For those of you with a partisan bent, I have some bad news. Our federal government may work better (well, less badly) when at least one house of Congress is controlled by the opposing party. Divided government is, curiously, less divisive. It's also cheaper. The basic reason for this is simple: When one party proposes drastic or foolish measures, the other party can obstruct them. The United States prospers most when excesses are curbed, and, if the numbers from the past 50 years are any indication, divided government is what curbs them.

Let's look at some statistics. From the dawn of the Cold War until today, we've had only two periods of what could be called fiscal restraint: The last six years of the Eisenhower administration, and the last six years of the Clinton administration, both intervals in which the opposition controlled Congress. Under Clinton, the average annual increase in spending was at about 1 percent, while, under Ike, it was negative. By contrast, our unified governments have gone on fiscal benders. Harry Truman, with the help of a Democratic Congress, sent the money flying, with spending increases of as high as 10 percent a year. Lyndon Johnson was almost as profligate. And today, unfortunately, George W. Bush, with a GOP majority, is the heir to their legacies. To put this in plain numbers, 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. That's a hefty premium to pay for a bit of unity.

Equally striking is that these spending increases have generally found the same recipient: the Pentagon. It's not that unified governments love to purchase bombers, but, rather, that they tend to draw us into war. This may sound improbable at first, but consider this: In 200 years of U.S. history, every one of our conflicts involving more than a week of ground combat has been initiated by a unified government. Each of the four major American wars during the 20th century, for example—World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War—was initiated by a Democratic president with the support of a Democratic Congress. The current war in Iraq, initiated by a Republican president and backed by a Republican Congress, is consistent with this pattern. It also stands as the only use of military force involving more than a week of ground combat that has been initiated by a Republican president in over a century. Divided government appears to be an important constraint on American participation in war. Needless to say, this reduces outlays in both blood and treasure.

There's one more advantage to tension between our governmental branches: Major reform is more likely to last. Since passing any measure in divided government requires bipartisan support, a shift in majorities is less likely to bring on serious changes or adulterations. The Reagan tax laws of 1981 and 1986, for example, were both approved by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats and have largely survived. The welfare reform of 1996 was approved by Clinton and a Republican Congress and also endures. By contrast, any efforts during the past several years to reform the federal tax code, Medicare, or Social Security have faltered, and any changes forced through by the GOP would almost certainly be undone as soon as Democrats returned to power. Reforms of real magnitude will almost certainly depend on preventing immoderation and securing bipartisan support, and little of that seems likely in a GOP-only government.

American voters, in their unarticulated collective wisdom, seem to grasp the benefits of divided government, and that's how they've voted for most of the past 50 years. To be sure, divided government is not the stuff of which political legends are made, but, in real life, most of us would take good legislation over good legends. As a life-long Republican and occasional federal official, I must acknowledge a hard truth: I don't much care how a divided government is next realized. And, in 2006, there's only one way that's going to happen.

William A. Niskanen is chairman of the Cato Institute and was a former member and acting chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.

Original Text