John Hinderaker at Powerline had a private conversation yesterday with a “senior, elected Republican official.” During their talk, the GOP leader noted that Democrats, more than ever, are the party of special interests, as reflected by their perverse policy decisions. He offered several, often-cited examples:
* They want to destroy the secret ballot in union elections, the cornerstone of labor democracy. Why? Because they are owned by the unions.
* They allowed our ability to spy on terrorists to lapse for a period of time, thereby threatening our national security. Why? Because they are owned by the plaintiffs' lawyers who were determined to sue telecoms.
* They try to block energy production, even though they know that the effects on our economy will be disastrous. Why? Because they are owned by the Sierra Club and other "environmentalist" groups.
What Mr. Hinderaker finds surprising isn’t the fact that Democrats can be bought, but rather, their sustained treatment as the “home team of politics by essentially every reporter and editor in the business.”
We beg to disagree. When more that 80% of the national press corps pulls the lever for a Democrat during each presidential election, you can expect fawning coverage for the media’s favorite political party.
But there’s another elephant in the room (pun intended), that’s ignored by both John Hinderaker and that unnamed GOP official. Why haven’t Republicans mounted a more spirited challenge to these Democratic positions—and the special interests that support them. Some would argue that the GOP has done that; the recent FISA extension bill was a major victory for President Bush, crafted on his terms, not those of Democratic special interests.
However, the Democrats still dominated the public debate, depicting terrorist surveillance as “spying” on ordinary Americans. Recent opinion polls show that many voters still have misgivings about the program, despite proven success in identifying terrorists in our midst.
Each of the issues identified by the Republican leader positively cry out for a devastating TV ad campaigns, highlighting the dangers of these Democratic positions. Unfortunately, such ads are few and far between, even in an election year. And it’s not a shortage of cash; the RNC has more on hand than Howard Dean and the Democrats.
The real problem is a lack of political willpower. GOP leaders are unwilling to take on Democratic special interests with any consistency, fearing that some members of those groups will vote against them, or (worse yet) The New York Times might criticize them editorially. Memo to the GOP: Get over it, and get on with it. Those interest groups will never vote Republican in substantial numbers, and the Times won’t support you either.
Meanwhile, there are millions of voters who want Republicans to take a stand in favor of expanded energy production, lower taxes and winning the war on terrorism, among other issues. But effective counter punches on those issues have been relatively few and far between. One of the first rules of boxing (and politics) is the need to jab and counter-punch; in those areas, the GOP remains woefully inept.
That’s another reason that Tony Snow will be missed by the conservative rank-and-file. As presidential press secretary, Mr. Snow was an incredibly effective advocate for Bush Administration policies, and willing to take on the press corps in defending them. In many respects, Tony's daily briefings were the administration's most effective bully pulpit, and no one, repeat no one, has been able to duplicate his performance.
Will the next Tony Snow please step forward? Better yet, will someone tell the GOP that Barack Obama's flip-flops (and the Democrats' disastrous energy policies) represent political issues that are prime for exploitation, if the Republicans will rise to the occasion.
Appearing on Fox News last night, Dick Morris observed that "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less," was the first position the GOP had successfully articulated in the last four years. Such is the state of Republican leadership. With all due respect to Mr. Hinderaker's friend, the GOP would be better off trying to exploit political openings, and worrying less about the same old special interests that have controlled the Democratic party for decades.