Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sen Coburn: GOP In Denial

From the WSJ:
As congressional Republicans contemplate the prospect of an electoral disaster this November, much is being written about the supposed soul-searching in the Republican Party. A more accurate description of our state is paralysis and denial.

Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets. But the burning bush, so to speak, is delivering a blindingly simple message: Behave like Republicans.

Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn't good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.

Becoming Republicans again will require us to come to grips with what has ailed our party – namely, the triumph of big-government Republicanism and failed experiments like the K Street Project and "compassionate conservatism." If the goal of the K Street Project was to earmark and fund raise our way to a filibuster-proof "governing" majority, the goal of "compassionate conservatism" was to spend our way to a governing majority.

The fruit of these efforts is not the hoped-for Republican governing majority, but the real prospect of a filibuster-proof Democrat majority in 2009. While the K Street Project decimated our brand as the party of reform and limited government, compassionate conservatism convinced the American people to elect the party that was truly skilled at activist government: the Democrats.

Compassionate conservatism's starting point had merit. The essential argument that Republicans should orient policy around how our ideas will affect the poor, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten and the "other" is indisputable – particularly for those who claim, as I do, to submit to an authority higher than government. Yet conservatives are conservatives because our policies promote deliverance from poverty rather than dependence on government.

Compassionate conservatism's next step – its implicit claim that charity or compassion translates into a particular style of activist government involving massive spending increases and entitlement expansion – was its undoing. Common sense and the Scriptures show that true giving and compassion require sacrifice by the giver. This is why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, not his neighbor's possessions. Spending other people's money is not compassionate.

Regaining our brand as the party of fiscal discipline will require us to rejoin Americans in the real world of budget choices and priorities, and to leave behind the fantasyland of borrowing without limits. Instead of adopting earmarks, each Republican can adopt examples of government waste, largess and fraud, and restart the permanent campaign against big government.

Republicans can tear up the "emergency spending" credit card and refuse to accept any new spending whatsoever, including for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, until Congress does its job of eliminating wasteful spending. The federal budget contains a vast unexplored area of offsets. My office alone has identified $300 billion in annual waste. Borrowing from the next generation when we haven't done our job of oversight is unconscionable.

Regaining our brand is not about "messaging." It's about action. It's about courage. It's about priorities. Most of all, it's about being willing to give up our political careers so our grandkids don't have to grow up in a debtor's prison, or a world in which other nations can tell a weakened and bankrupt America where we can and can't defend liberty, pursue terrorists, or show compassion.


It is too bad Tom Coburn is being drowned out by all the GOP "leadership" promising that they "got the message" and will be changing any day now to reflect the "current needs" of the American people.

The depth of the problem is demonstrated by Coburn's last paragraph, which he felt compelled--or was impelled--to tack on:

John McCain, for all his faults, is the one Republican candidate who can lead us through our wilderness. Mr. McCain is not running on a messianic platform or as a great healer of dysfunctional Republicans who refuse to help themselves. His humility is one of his great strengths. In his heart, he's a soldier who sees one more hill to charge, one more mission to complete.


So much for spurning the Great Whosis coming down off the mountain with the agenda! While McCain is running, the GOP is the vehicle of McCain. Maybe after November, they'll be ready to absorb what Coburn is pitching here without distractions or equivocations.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

McCain at Wake Forest University

From the speech:

Of course, in the daily routine of Senate obstructionism, presidential nominees to the lower courts are now lucky if they get a hearing at all. These courts were created long ago by the Congress itself, on what then seemed the safe assumption that future Senates would attend to their duty to fill them with
qualified men and women nominated by the president. Yet at this moment there are 31 nominations pending, including several for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that serves North Carolina. Because there are so many cases with no judges to hear them, a "judicial emergency" has been declared here by the
Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. And a third of the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is vacant. But the alarm has yet to sound for the Senate majority leadership. Their idea of a judicial emergency is the possible confirmation of any judge who doesn't meet their own narrow tests of party and ideology. They want federal judges who will push the limits of constitutional law, and, to this end, they have pushed the limits of Senate rules and simple courtesy.

As my friend and colleague Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma points out, somehow these very same senators can always find time to process earmark spending projects. But months go by, years even, and they can't get around to voting on judicial nominations -- to meeting a basic Senate duty under our Constitution. If a lobbyist shows up wanting another bridge to nowhere, or maybe even a courthouse with a friend's name on it, that request will be handled by the Senate with all the speed and urgency of important state business. But when a judicial nominee arrives to the Senate -- a nominee to preside at a courthouse and administer justice -- then he or she had better settle in, because the Senate majority has other business and other priorities.

Things almost got even worse a few years ago, when there were threats of a filibuster to require 60 votes for judicial confirmations, and threats in reply of a change in Senate rules to prevent a filibuster. A group of senators, nicknamed the "Gang of 14," got together and agreed we would not filibuster
unless there were "extraordinary circumstances." This parliamentary truce was brief, but it lasted long enough to allow the confirmation of Justices Roberts, Alito, and many other judges. And it showed that serious differences can be handled in a serious way, without allowing Senate business to unravel in a chaos of partisan anger.

There were not threats of a filibuster of nominees. There were actual filibusters of nominees--the modern sort, where the Senate president agrees that any topic can be brought to the floor without cloture except the subject of the filibuster.




There were not "threats" to change Senate rules to prevent a filibuster. There was a serious national campaign to make 2004 Senate races a referendum on the plan. Money and volunteers crossed state lines to ensure enough Republican Senators to implement the scheme. And despite the victory of Republicans and the efforts of the Republican leadership to fulfill their election promises, McCain & Co. torpedoed the idea for the "Gang of 14".

You can't name a judge or justice confirmed under the Gang of 14 who would have failed after the Nuclear Option. You can name several who went under the bus because the filibuster is still a possibility. It is because each and every nomination can result in a filibuster, that there is delay in nominations--the leadership must rally a supermajority every time. Ted Olson thinks this was just a "tactical maneuver" by McCain--perhaps he should give thought to why Democrats signed onto the same maneuver? They surely had no desire to get good judicial conservatives confirmed.

Perhaps McCain's Senate caracoles are not directly relevant to his possible performance as President; but he thinks we ought to remember it, because he brought it up. And he'd like some applause for it, too.

Let the verdict be McCain's:

It is part of the discipline of democracy to respect the roles and
responsibilities of each branch of government, and, above all, to respect the verdicts of elections and judgment of the people. Had we forgotten this in the Senate, we would have been guilty of the very thing that many federal judges do when they overreach, and usurp power, and betray their trust.