The Lamentable Choice of 2006

by on January 24th, 2006

There are a lot of big things coming our way in 2006. Right out of the gate there was the Alito nomination fight. On top of this there’s the whole Abramoff scandal. This year we will begin to draw down troop levels in Iraq.

The Democrat’s chief cut and run spokesman John Murtha has expressed concern that a gradual withdrawal will give the impression of victory. He’s right, it will. But it’s not enough to give the impression. At some point Bush needs to stand up to people like Murtha and say “It looks like victory because that’s what it is.” Will he do it? I just don’t know.

There is of course the possibility of yet another Supreme Court nomination. Just imagine the fight if Bush gets to replace Stevens.

But the biggest foreseeable story for the year has to be the Congressional election. This mid-term election will not be about which candidate will best serve which constituency. In this Congressional campaign there will be no local races. This election will be about nothing but which party controls the Congress.

Given that there is no viable third option, we are stuck with having to choose either the Republicans or the Democrats. We are between a rock and a hard place.

There has been a Republican in the White House for five years. There has been steadily growing Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. And what has that gotten us?

The administration, despite the Congress, has done a good job of dealing with terrorism. It took the massacre of 9/11 to force a national policy shift from reactive to proactive. No longer do we respond to terrorism by going after terrorists after they attack. Now we are actively going after terrorists and actively trying to change the things in the world that make terrorism possible.

Put that one as a big plus for the Republican White House.

As for the Republicans nominally in control of congress they have barely put up a fight against the defeatists in the minority. With the possible exception of the House Republicans forcing a vote on Democratic calls for immediate withdrawal.

We have Republican control of government to thank for increasing federal control of public education. I haven’t had the time to do the research into the numbers, but I would not be at all suprised to discover a correlation between the slow and steady decline in education and the slow and steady usurpation of this local function by the federal government. And as for leaving no child behind, the easiest way to that is not to raise the level of those at the bottom but make sure no one at the top gets too far ahead.

This Republican government brought us the largest growth in the welfare state since the dawn of The Great Society. The reasoning is pretty simple. As the boomer generation reaches the Medicare age in mass numbers, the party that is seen as the one buying them drugs will presumably get the AARP vote. I find it incredibly dishonest for the Republicans to be arguing that we need to privatize Social Security because the demographics show that it will go broke while at the same time creating a huge new entitlement for the same group. If the current and next generations of working people cannot afford to pay for baby boomers retirement how in the hell are we supposed to pay for their medication.?

And just where were Congressional Republicans when the President was trying to advance the idea of privatizing Social Security? They were hanging out with Congressional Democrats making sure that federal involvement in individual’s lives was not diminished by giving them back a very small portion of their independence.

The Republicans did manage to cut income taxes. TEMPORARILY. A welcome half-measure that is at least better than a tax increase.

Fiscally the Republicans seem to have abandoned the idea of limited government. They have been spending like drunken sailors. Like drunken Democrat sailors.

As for being the party of big business, and in particular big oil, the Republicans have been useless when it comes to energy policy. I have lost track of the number of times that one house of Congress passed a measure that would allow for oil exploration in a very small portion of the vast Alaska National Wildlife Reserve only to have the other chamber block it. It makes one wonder if the leadership gets together and plays a game of rock paper scissors and the winner gets to pass it. The loser has to block.

ANWAR oil reserves have been estimated as high as a 20 year supply. Even if you cut that in half, think of what we could accomplish in the world, and in the middle east, in the 10 years they didn’t have us over a barrel.

Critics of the war in Iraq like to chant that this a war for oil. Just what do they think was the motivation behind decades of foreign policy aimed at maintaining the status quo of the Middle East. We tolerated and even supported tyrants and nations that recognized no rights of individuals. We looked the other way or offered only token saber rattling in response to the growing menace of terrorism. For decades “No War For Oil” was our foreign policy. And look at the state and the world.

We did nothing, because we needed their oil. We have the resources domestically to not need Mid East oil. We have the resources to take away the biggest weapon they have. But the party that is supposedly the one that is strong on defense and in the pocket of big oil can’t muster the will to make it happen.

We now stand on the brink of another war as the policy of Mideast stability at any cost has resulted in a theocracy with a militant if not insane president on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. And there is debate if we should do anything about it.

Then there is the alternative. The Democrats. The closest this group comes to offering an actual position on any issue is to call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. We hear this from most of the rank and file and from the titular leadership. But what of the Democrats presumptive nominee for 2008? What has Hillary Clinton had to say about the calls for retreat coming from her party? Surprisingly little. Clinton is in a very dangerous spot. If she comes out in favor of retreat she can forget about the presidency. If she comes out in support of winning the war, she can kiss the nomination goodbye. Her only play is to keep quiet and hope that it is essentially over before she has to take a stand. Sure she can make noise and criticize the Bush administration about body armor that the troops don’t want to be burdened with. This gives her some anti-Bush cred with the base but seems sufficiently pro troops to not alienate the middle.

Beyond that the party stands for nothing other than the idea that Bush is evil and the Republicans are corrupt. That anything they say is automatically wrong. The Republicans could come out in favor of a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing every woman the right to a federally funded abortion at any point in a pregnancy before actual delivery and the cutting of the umbilical cord, and the Democrats would oppose it.

Then there wass the pathetic spectacle of the just concluded confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Democrats attacked Judge Alito with the words of an article that he didn’t write, in a magazine he didn’t subscribe to, that was published by a political group that he was loosely connected with due to their position on an issue unrelated to the subject of the article. It doesn’t even matter that the Concerned Alumni of Princeton had no formal membership. It doesn’t matter that the article in question was written as a spoof. It was a rotten sleazy tactic.

And the Republicans on the committee? They did nothing. Sure they threw Alito some friendly questions so that he could score some points with people who were already going to vote for him. They allowed to him give the answers that would reassure the Republican base but be completely ignored by the people who had already decided they were voting against confirmation. But as for challenging the sleazy tactics of the Democrats, they were impotently silent.

It doesn’t matter if it would be against the rules of committee conduct. The reason this sort of thing happens is that not one Republican used his time at the microphone to castigate Kennedy and company for their reprehensible treatment of Judge Alito.

But this is what we have to work with. There is no third option. The Libertarian Party certainly isn’t it. While at its core it has some sound principals such as limited government, individual freedom and responsibility, as a party they are too dominated by the fringe elements who seem to think the most important issue is drug legalization. They will never be taken seriously as long as they advance ideas that are as outside the American mainstream as the Green Party.

To bring the discussion back to the question that started it all, which party should win control of the Congress in 2006?

I think we need a decade or two of “none of the above.” I think we would all be better off if both houses were evenly divided. Since the party that holds the White House has a one vote advantage in the Senate, let the other party have the one vote advantage in the House. This ought to effectively shut down either side’s agenda. Let hem fight among themselves and leave the rest of us alone.

But what are the chances of that.

Stephen Macklin