Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 1999/10 Kislev, 5760

Tony Snow

Tony Snow
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Jeff Jacoby
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Robert Samuelson
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard


The Party of
Lincoln is aiming low -- REPUBLICANS ARE SLINKING out of Washington this year, declaring victory in terms normally reserved for capitulation.

The revolutionary aim of the GOP in 1999 was not to abolish inane agencies, rein in marauding regulators, hack away choking vines of taxation or make it possible for parents to have as much latitude in customizing their children's education as they have in customizing their toilet paper. No: The Party of Lincoln aimed low. It vowed to "protect" Social Security and slash the growth of federal spending from 5 percent to 4.62 percent. It held new spending to "only" about $30 billion more than the budget law allows.

The congressional GOP isn't spineless, as some allege. It's headless. It has no ideological core. It does not stand for limited government, reduced taxes or liberation from the indignities of Big Government. It stands merely for survival -- which is defined as enjoying the good opinion of a president and a press corps that will tolerate a Republican Party only insofar as it behaves like a faint reproduction of the Democratic Party.

Every time Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott or House Speaker Dennis Hastert so much as mention an interesting idea, a cadre of Laodicean Republicans threaten to bolt. The result is that the Republican majority functions in precisely the same manner as an Israeli parliamentary coalition: At any time, a group of obscure malcontents can bring the government to ruin.

The party reinforces its weakness by adopting a loser's communications strategy. Even after commissioning a bevy of polls and retaining a squadron of outside script doctors, Republicans can't resist the temptation to describe their achievements in the argot of legislative process. They will create a "Social Security lock box." They will "live within the budget caps." They will use "savings from domestic programs to offset planned expenditures for national defense."

This is how budget nerds talk to each other when they are making fun of budget nerds. While Democrats promise to help the infirm, educate the stupid and employ the homeless, Republicans sit in the corner, drooling and ranting about the sanctity of Congressional Budget Office revenue estimates.

Although Republicans have established a beachhead in state politics, where they control a majority of legislative houses and governor's mansions, they have yet to flower into an actual majority party. In fact, they have all but given up the project in Washington, where they are stocking up on provisions, drawing blankets around their shoulders and waiting for deliverance in the form of a presidential nominee.

The 2000 Republican Convention almost certainly will eschew the traditional GOP nastiness over abortion language in the platform. In fact, there probably won't be any interesting fights at all. This is what happens when a party loses its intellectual ferment and becomes desperate. On matters of policy, the nominee will propose language. The delegates will ratify. And those in attendance will hope they guessed right.

The modern Republican Party is a work in progress that stopped progressing four years ago. It has become frozen in amber. It features a Reagan nostalgia wing that tells war stories about Ole Dutch -- and then sighs. It features a noblesse oblige wing that pays homage to the parlor-room Babbitry of our upper middle classes. It features a warrior wing, comprised largely of raw Southerners who want to do to liberal bureaucracy what Sherman did to the Eastern seaboard; and it features a photogenic young conservative wing, which wants to do much the same thing, but with the aid of minorities and women.

Right-wing critics miss the mark when they demand auto da fe for Hastert and Lott. Those men did the best they could in an age in which the public seems content with a large, expensive and growing government.

For now, Lincoln's party isn't a party at all -- just a party in waiting. When Republicans meet next year in convention, the only thing they'll be sure to have in common is hotel reservations.

The departing Congress reflects that fact. Since its worthies can't make a demotic argument for anything of importance, they settled for narrow, technical challenges -- such as the 0.38 percentage point reduction in the growth of federal spending.

This sense of caution explains why the old salts wax nostalgic over Reagan and why the young guns pray their next nominee will possess even a glimmer of the Gipper's focus and fire.

Tony Snow Archives


©1999, Creators Syndicate