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Their Own Worst Enemies
A bad midterm outlook for the GOP.


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Deroy Murdock

Why should Republicans bother to vote GOP next November 5? Inexplicably, President Bush and congressional Republicans are giving their party base myriad reasons to go fishing on Election Day.

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Republicans and Democrats have proven to be pigs in a bipartisan pen on pork-barrel spending. While some Republicans still treat taxpayers’ dollars with reverence, too many more stand gleefully at the trough, snout-by-snout, with their Democratic colleagues.

This Congress is set to hike federal spending by 15 percent over just two years, more than quadruple the inflation rate. Most of this does nothing to fight terrorism.

On May 13, Bush signed a $191 billion farm bill that boosts agriculture subsidies by 80 percent. Congress even included $100 million to provide rural consumers “high-speed, high-quality broadband service.” The Heritage Foundation estimates that this 10-year bill will cost the average U.S. household $180 in new taxes annually.

Bush’s education department budget grows from $35.75 billion in 2001 (when he arrived) to a projected $57 billion in 2005. That is a four-year, 59.5 percent increase in federal school outlays. Bush’s Leave No Child Behind initiative promotes testing and higher standards, but does little to advance school choice.

Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law. It treats the disease of legal bribery with a prescribed overdose. As if there were no First Amendment, it will restrict political activists from purchasing ads critical of political incumbents within 60 days of elections.

Bush dropped an anvil on free-marketeers this spring when he imposed 30 percent tariffs on imported steel and a 27 percent tax on Canadian softwood lumber. This has created throbbing headaches among world leaders who have grown weary of Bush’s self-mocking free-trade rhetoric.

Bush has applauded a Senate bill by liberal Republican Pete Domenici of New Mexico and arch-liberal Democrat Paul Wellstone of Minnesota that would force company health plans to insure mental illness and physical ailments equally. Costs will soar as employers underwrite medical care for anxiety atop angina.

Enough.

A popular conservative president should steer Congress starboard. A May 14 – 15 Fox News poll of 900 adults found Bush’s job approval at 77 percent (+/- 3 percent). Alas, like his father (who achieved 90 percent favorability after the Persian Gulf War), G. W. Bush guards his political capital like an heirloom rather than invest it for even greater gains.

When Democrats smeared appellate-court nominee Charles Pickering as a racist, Bush, for instance, should have held a press conference with Pickering and his prominent black supporters from Mississippi. As Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, said: Pickering “was standing up for blacks in Mississippi when no other white man would.” Bush avoided such bold action. A thousand cuts later, Pickering’s nomination fatally hemorrhaged in the Senate Judiciary Committee last March.

Bush could have enhanced the prospects for petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He could have invited local Eskimos to the Rose Garden and let them explain how oil development would lift them from poverty. Better yet, Bush could have taken the White House press corps to ANWR to unmask its potential oil acreage as a barren mosquito farm. Bush avoided the ANWR fray, thus clinching that proposal’s Senate demise.

Beyond speaking softly in his bully pulpit, Bush never has touched his veto pen. Had he threatened to reject some of this absurd legislation, fence-sitting GOP congressmen would have yielded and defeated (or at least improved) these bills. Absent Bush’s leadership, they climbed atop the gilded bandwagon rather than fall on their laissez-faire swords.

Republicans should worry that their demoralized stalwarts will do what they did in the last midterm election: Stay home.

The proportion of self-described conservatives at the polls fell from 37 percent in 1994 to 31 percent in 1998, Voter News Service reports. Frustrated with a “Republican Revolution” turned free-spending self-parody, the party faithful sat on their hands just enough to cost Republicans five House seats.

If they don’t reverse this parade of white flags, Washington Republicans similarly may shrink or lose their five-seat House majority and dash their plans to capture the Senate — not because they advanced their free-market principles but because they betrayed them and thus surrendered their claim to power.



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