Politics & Policy

Party Guy

Hugh's red-paint store.

Radio talk-show host and blogosphere personality Hugh Hewitt is out with another book, this time with his blueprint for keeping Republicans in the majority, in Painting the Map Red: The Fight to Create a Permanent Republican Majority.

He recently took some questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez, channeling a lot of pent-up right-wing frustrations.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why on God’s green earth would I, a conservative, want a PERMANENT REPUBLICAN MAJORITY?

Hugh Hewitt: Because the alternative–a majority of either the House or the Senate in Democratic hands–means losing the war. I don’t believe the national security can take another round of Clinton-era fecklessness, and a triumph of the Dems in ‘06 or beyond means a quick u-turn as candidly acknowledged by Congressman Murtha and many others. Unless and until the Dems return to their national security roots in the policies of JFK/Truman/FDR, we need a Republican majority.

And given the look of the Democratic Party these days, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Lopez: Denny Hastert, John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Bill Frist [don’t] need to worry about party loyalty. Why the heck should I?

Hewitt: I don’t think the leadership has been bad on the votes, but they have been bad on the discipline. There is no reason, for example, why Lincoln Chafee should be getting a dime from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but he has been getting support, which is why the NRSC’s fundraising is disappointing. The leadership needs to develop and enforce the idea of “party votes,” wherein there is an expectation of loyalty and a penalty when the Member goes against the party.

Lopez: Don’t conservatives outside government exist in part to nudge conservatives in government back on track when they’re off?

Hewitt: Yes, and that’s a key role, but nudging the majority doesn’t mean “I’ll show them” politics which leads to Democratic majorities. It ought to mean combining behind Laffey in Rhode Island, and some key challengers for “blue” Senate seats in places like Minnesota. It also means not forgetting the “Gang of 14,” McCain-Feingold, or McCain-Kennedy when Senator McCain comes calling for ‘08 support.

Lopez: You call for discipline and leadership from Republicans as a strategy for 2006 victory. Leadership? Did you watch the immigration debate in the Senate? Are you kidding me?

Hewitt: That debate isn’t over, and it is also far from clear that the details of immigration reform organize into a “party vote” even though border security is. The Judiciary Committee’s bill was clearly not in step with the party, and it was rejected in the end. Now the Committee gets a second swing, and it needs to deliver the fence first, and the fence has to be real, not “virtual.” There’s a chapter in the book on the huge danger to the conservative majority posed by immigration reform, precisely because there are some serious conservatives on both sides of the regularitzation debate.

But all conservatives are on the side of border enforcement, and border enforcement begins with the 700 miles of fencing envisioned in the House bill, along with “notwithstanding any other law” language that clears the way for rapid construction of the new border control fences etc. (Like Israel’s proposed 400 miles of fences, the actual design will no doubt vary according to terrain.)

The party made its views known in the Senate, and conservatives should acknowledge and applaud that resolve.

The answer to dismay at the Judiciary Committee’s bill is not to give the chamber over to Democrats, it is to elect more Republicans.

Lopez: You’d write Lincoln Chafee out of the party. What’s the point in the Hewitt Rules of Party Order when a Republican has excommunicated himself?

Hewitt: It isn’t very hard to pass. I am not sure of the rule, but I know that Lincoln Chafee voted against the use of force in Iraq, against the re-election of President Bush, and against the confirmation of Justice Alito. Three big strikes…

Lopez: “The assault on Miers”? You chastise conservatives, but I’m not regretting Sam Alito sitting on the Court. Are you? Wasn’t the Miers “meltdown” in the White House?

Hewitt: I am very happy with the confirmation of Justice Alito. I think he’ll make a spectacular justice, and we will all get a preview of the new court’s significance very soon with the decision in the Vermont campaign spending case. (Justices Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas all have voted against various campaign finance schemes in the past, and the new court’s arrival might be first seen in all its importance in the case of Randall v. Sorrell.)

But the nature of the assault on Miers was very unfortunate. She was and remains a fine public servant, and her credentials ought to have been sufficient to have at least earned her a hearing. The long-range impact of that intra-party bloodletting are not yet fully known, but it is very difficult to see how the Supreme Court will now be accessible to any practitioner or even anyone not from within the narrow worlds of appellate judging or lawyering. At the risk of reopening the axis of elitism debate, conservatives generally, and the founders specifically, would be shocked at the idea that one had to arrive at the Supreme Court with a portfolio of writings that would assure one side or the other of orthodoxy.

For the foreseeable future, though, the Republican majority is going to insist on such a pedigree, and given the willingness of some to abandon any restraint to insist on such a pedigree, they ought to be willing to fight at least as hard and as fiercely for the Republican majority that confirms such nominees.

If the GOP loses even two of its 54 seats (Chafee simply doesn’t count), it will lose the ability to confirm the next nominee it likes. Anyone from the front rank of the anti-Miers coalition should already be digging deep to keep DeWine, Santorum, Talent, and Burns employed, as well as to add Kennedy in Minnesota, Kean in NJ, etc.

If the blood-on-the-floor from the Miers smash-up was a necessary sacrifice, then every single anti-Miers combatant should be working around the clock to keep the majority in place without which no Republican nominee will be confirmed.

Lopez: You write that “it is not safe for the country to entrust any of its major institutions to the control of the Democratic Party.” A bit much?

Hewitt: No, not at all. Not in time of war. Not when the Democratic Party elites are pledged to retreat in Iraq, which means defeat in this war and a replay of 9/11 down the road.

Would it have been safe to give the country to Henry Wallace in 1948? Today’s Democrats make Henry Wallace look like Truman.

Lopez: The Dems do listen obediently to the likes of Daily Kos. (And to think Arlen Specter thinks NR is “extreme”!) Why? Do they think it’s their road to victory?

Hewitt: I can’t explain the Left’s decision to go off the cliff. They were one of two parties in a 50-50 nation in 2000, to borrow from Michael Barone, but Gore took them over a cliff in Florida, and that experience changed the party. It began with the Gore-Lieberman effort to disqualify ballots of military serving overseas, and became far worse over the next few years as the radical element of the party went unrebuked.

When Michael Moore showed up in the presidential box at the Boston convention, the break occurred within the party of JFK and Truman that had begun in ‘68, and the folks from the streets had finally won their victory, which the Kerry nomination sealed.

With no one Left from the “Scoop Jackson wing” the radicals are now off on a purge that includes even Joe Lieberman.

Imagine this group filling the 3,000 Schedule C slots and SES billets in a future Democratic administration.

Lopez: Obama is worse than Kennedy?

Hewitt: Younger. Smarter. Better on television. Not easily lampooned. Every bit as far to the Left as Senator K. Capable of motivating non-voters instead of merely amusing them.

Lopez: Is the “liberal mainstream media” close to irrelevant yet?

Hewitt: No. Although its anti-GOP distortions and pro-Democratic boosterism can be exposed, it takes time and effort to do so. The war against the war, for example, has taken its toll.

Lopez: If Republican strategists listened to only one piece of your advice, what do you hope it would be?

Hewitt: Make the 2006 elections about the war and focus every day on the Democratic Party’s plan to cut and run.

Lopez: If you had to bet today, does the GOP keep the House this year? The Senate?

Hewitt: Yes, it does, but only if its leadership gets off the couch and starts swinging.

The House is on a pace to work fewer days than any House since the “do nothing” Congress of ‘48–in wartime, no less!

The Senate Judiciary Committee has nominees, including Brett Kavanaugh, stacked like soup cans on the shelf of a locked pantry.

There are two vacancies on the D.C. Circuit–the second most significant court in the country–for which the White House has yet to even name a nominee, probably because of the GOP blockade of the president’s nominees already sent up.

The dithering and inertia has got to end, and the leadership has to allow the debate that is below the surface of the proceedings–but in full view on the web and across the country–to make it to the floor. The stakes are incredibly high, and not just for the war and the Supreme Court. The GOP leadership needs to act that way.

Lopez: Will you blame NR if they don’t?

Hewitt: I think NR is one of the great things the GOP has going for it, even though when it goes wrong it does so spectacularly. (“Caligula’s horse.”) NRO sets an example for the rest of the center-right of good humor and vigor that the Left doesn’t have, and which the Left desperately needs.

NR could use a great deal more appreciation for “party,” as I hope the Disraeli lessons from the book make clear. I don’t want to return to the years ‘54 to ‘94, which perhaps sharpened the pens of the right while driving the country deeper into economic ditches and the Vietnam syndrome…

Lopez: What kind of difference will blogs make in 2006 elections? In what ways different from 2008?

Hewitt: It remains to be seen. Right now, KennedyvMachine.com is making a difference in the Minnesota Senate race as are the blogs of the NorthernAlliance. The Lefty blogs also appear to be helping the GOP by consistently conveying bad advice on which races are competitive and where limited resources ought to be spent.

Lopez: Are you on the I-write-a-book-a-month plan?

Hewitt: So long as there are Lefties to denounce the books in the reviews at Amazon.com, I’ll know there is still work to be done.

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