Monday, September 20, 2010

GOP Leadership Continues To Flail

The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte

I think we’re getting to the point where John Boehner and Eric Cantor should resign from the leadership. The latest incidence of cowardice and stupidity involves earmarks.

Earmarks are a problem. They aren’t the be-all-end-all problem that John McCain envisioned because they are only a minor percentage of the total budget (about 0.8% of the budget -- $20 billion out of $2.4 trillion), but their effect is corrosive. Earmarks are the tool individual Congress members use to bribe the people in their districts with their neighbor’s money. This is how the government gets involved in building bridges to nowhere and studying whether pornography excites hummingbirds, and this is why West Virginia has become a ward of the Federal Government.

The problem with earmarks is that they represent a corrupt system that judges the success or failure of individual members on their ability to score pork, rather than their effect on the government as a whole. If a member doesn't bring home enough projects to the district, then others stand ready to replace them. Thus, the incentive is to keep grabbing. And even if a particular district decides against getting its share of the plunder, other districts stand ready to take up what they've left on the table. Consequently, the system is set up where the rational choice for all concerned is to keep plundering and thereby always expand the size and scope of government.

And as if this were not bad enough, a system like this encourages dirty dealing, as we've seen repeatedly when Congress members and lobbyists have been arrested for trading campaign contributions for earmarks. Interesting, as the Washington Examiner reminded us this weekend, earmarks also are what allowed the Democrats to buy the votes of Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Bill Nelson to secure the passage of ObamaCare.

Thus, I was heartened in March when every single House Republican voted to ban earmarks. Said Mike Pence at the time: “Now House Republicans are going to the American people and saying we want a clean break from the runaway spending in the past. And that's going to be quite a contrast from this Congress and the administration.”

But that was then and this is now, and these are career politicians we are talking about. According to the Politico, both John Boehner and Eric Cantor “are leaving the door open to allowing earmarks after a one-year party-imposed moratorium.” Yep. Nothing says "principled stand" quite like agreeing to stop for only a short period of time, does it?

There is no excuse for this unprincipled cowardice, and this is fast becoming a pattern. All summer long, Boehner and Cantor remained silent as the rank and file of the party and the public rose up and demanded a new way, a way that should be entirely consistent with Republican principle. When they did speak, Boehner talked about procedures and Cantor whimpered about being careful not to be too extreme or too offensive. They have failed to embrace Paul Ryan’s plans, they failed to embrace the spirit of the Tea Party, they failed to embrace the 60% of the public that says Obama's way is the wrong way, they failed to see the need to put forth an agenda, and the agenda they finally put together appears to be nothing more than tinkering, gimmickry, and form over substance. And now we hear that they can’t even make a simple stand on principle like this. . . a stand they already agreed to take.

This is not leadership, and it's no surprise that 57% of GOP voters want a new leadership.

Jim DeMint has warned that the Republicans better deliver serious change. I agree. But I don’t think Boehner and Cantor get that, and even if they do, I don’t see that they have the courage to do it. And what makes this all the worse, we’re not even talking about needing real courage. They’re not being asked to risk their lives or even to do anything that would put them at odds with the public. They’re simply being ask to act according to the principles that they supposedly represent, principles that the vast majority of the public and their party want them to act upon.

If they can’t do that, then they should resign.


Tennessee Jed said...

I guess the question begged is"if not, then who?" Earmarks are not necessarily bad, but certainly can lead to abuse and waste. You simply cannot make a principled stand and then beg off. New conservative teaparty types are probably necessary, because anyone there long enough gets corrupted.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm seeing a lot of evidence that the leadership simply does not understand that the public has changed will not respond well to the old games -- check out last Friday's article on their agenda.

I think they honestly believe that the public is upset at Obama's overreach, and only wants things slowed down and then will return to letting themselves be bought off. But that's not true anymore, as I'm going to write about later this week. I truly believe the public has changed.

LL said...

The landscape is different, people pay attention to government and they have nearly NO trust in Congress (18 % trust Congress per the last Rassmussen Poll). And the old guard of both parties simply trudge on as if that means NOTHING.

I agree that we need a change in the Republican Party and whoever takes the helm (I like Mike Pence) needs to run a tight genuinely ethical ship.

The people don't want a repeat of the Pelosi/Reid perspective of "transparent and ethical".

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I agree. I think running a very tight, fiscally responsible, scandal free, non-influence peddling party will be vital.

I think Pence would make a good leader, though I haven't actually weighed him yet as a replacement. All I know for sure is that Boehner seems stuck in the past and I have yet to see anything other than cowardice out of Cantor.

I'm going to write an article later in the week on how I see things playing out. I suspect that this leadership will stick around through 2012 before being forced out, and that real change will come between 2012-2014 from the bottom up with Tea Party people being the driving force. Hopefully, it will be an interesting article.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Only a true politician would casually state that ethics have an expiration date.

I would note that Lisa Murkowski is basing her write-in candidacy almost entirely on her ability to bring home the bacon. It will be interesting to see how Alaskans respond to that. A state's best interests are not determined solely by how much pork their Senator can deliver, but Murkowski apparently thinks so.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I honestly think that's what these people learned in their time in DC. They learned that you only need to keep promises until people forget about them, and it's all about how much you can bring back to your district.

But I get the sense that those days are over, the establishment just doesn't realize it yet.

DUQ said...

I want new leadership, and I'm a big fan of Jim DeMint. I get his e-mails and I like what he stands for. I hope the party changes in the way he's aiming for.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I hope so as well. He seems to be doing a great job of getting new blood into the party and that is the only thing that will force the leadership to change or step aside.

BevfromNYC said...

Warning - Major Rant Zone - Enter at your own peril

Here is the real problem. Boehner and Cantor have humored the Tea Partiers since the beginning. And I give credit to them for holding the party line against the Democrats when necessary. But that is where it ends. Like every other (expletive) politician in Washington, they just don't get it that we are not going to go away now. AND we are turning our sites decidedly in the direction of the leadership within the GOP. They all still think this is all about the Democrats and Obama. IT'S NOT, IT'S NOT, IT'S NOT!!!! [She says as she stamps her feet]

And since the primaries ended last week, the attacks from BOTH parties have been appalling! Who the [expletive] do they think they are? BOTH parties opened that Pandora's box with TARPs and Auto Bailouts and ramming unnecessary and unwanted legislation without one thought to the people they represent. They have all been exposed as frauds, tax cheats, and just general reprobates and and now, because of the internet and easily accessible info sharing, they have an electorate they can't hide it from anymore. And they are shocked out of their socks to find out that we aren't the stupid, ignorant, unread, unwashed masses they always thought we were (and that their paid Ivy league consultants had convinced them that we were). We CAN read and write and think and, worst of all, question them!!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Nice rant! And I think very accurate of how people are feeling at the moment. This is not brain surgery, it's very simple what people want... it's not even anything strange, crazy or unusual -- they want honest government and fiscal sanity.

The Democrats are insane, so forget them. But the Republicans are the party that should have welcomed this new movement because this is what they claim to believe -- and if you talk to the rank and file, it is what they believe. It's just once you get to the leadership that they can't understand this. That's why they must go -- because they can't understand this. Their understanding of the world has become so corrupt that they can no longer make sense of reality. They must go.

And I agree, they've done a good job at stopping the Democrats, but they clearly don't have a clue what to do from here. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, bribing us with our own money, and patting us on our heads is not going to do it.

The rules have changed, the old way is finished.

And if they can't understand that (and they can't), then they will perish. And that's what I'm going to talk about later in the week -- what the real Tea Party (not the one all of the opportunists are pretending to lead) is about and what they are doing, and how this will permanently change America.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Bev, I think the real problem from Boehner and Cantor's perspective is that this Tea Party is something new, and something probably not seen in the US since maybe the civil rights movement or the abolitionist movement before that: a popular movement driven by a collective mindset rather than being pushed by a determined leader.

Boehner and Cantor are used to dealing with two kinds of people: interest groups and activists. The interest groups want money and they show up with pre-written legislation, campaign help, etc., and they know how to play the game. The activists, frankly, are idiots. They have their one issue, they like to make a big noise and then, as long as they get an endorsement and some unkeepable promise, they go away happy.

If that's all you've seen your whole life, then it's hard to understand that these Tea Party people aren't like either of those groups, they want actual change.

What's more, these guys have been blinded by what is basically a fake Tea Party that has been laid on top of the real thing by a small group of opportunists and a willing media. These people talk like activists, but act like interest groups. The way Boehner and Cantor are acting tells me that they have bought into this narrative of the Tea Party... but it's not the real story, the real story is very different.

Thus, they fail.

LL said...

Politicians will always try to buy votes with "what they bring back from Washington" but we need to trim that back to a reasonable number and for a time...focus on bringing this monster under control.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, That's true, and I find it a very bad sign that these guys are already backtracking even before they get into power.

I think that's a huge red flag that they don't understand that we want an end to this practice.

Joel Farnham said...

Excellent article Andrew.

I would be more appreciative of Boehner and Cantor if they had joined the Tea Party or helped Create them.

As it is, I do thank them for keeping the faith and for holding fast the various people against the Democratic onslaught, but if it wasn't for them, we would not have been in this place in the first with the spending earlier in Bush's Administration. A lot of things could have been fixed much sooner.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Joel, and well said. I am thankful for their efforts against Obama, but they clearly were part of the problem that led to Obama taking power. That makes it hard to see why we should trust them with power again?

Moreover, now that they are indicating that they see themselves returning to the same behaviors, I can't see how we can support them at all? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

And even if they have good reasons for diverging their agenda from the Tea Party agenda, how can we trust in their good faith if they never took the complaints of the public seriously? Indeed, as you and Bev both point out, they never did more than humor the Tea Party people. So what should give us any comfort that they've gotten the message?

Ed said...

Excellent rant Bev!! I feel your pain! Great article too. I am so seriously fed up with these clowns. How can they not understand what people want. You have to be an idiot not to understand the people, or you're being intentionally evasive.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It is hard to believe they don't get it, but that's how it always is with people living in bubbles -- everything gets filtered and processed before it gets to them.

CrispyRice said...

You go, Bev!!

I'm foot stomping right next to ya!!


BevfromNYC said...

Thanks Crispy! Maybe it's because when I wrote that I was on my way to a Tea Party event. But what really set me off is that Obama has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged the Tea Partiers to "be specific" about what we think we could do better.

Shall we send him our ideas?

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, That's a sucker game. Whatever you send he will say he never got it. Then you'll make him sign for it and he'll claim he never read it. Then you'll send someone who can read it to him and he'll claim he doesn't remember anything specific.

He's doing worse than even the Republican leadership in his handling of the Tea Party, so let him keep making an ass of himself.

FYI, Did you see the woman who is "exhausted" from defending him?! He looked like a moronic deer caught in the headlights when she said that.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, It was a pretty good rant, wasn't it? Bravo Bev!

StanH said...

There is one immutable fact that we must remember, these are Washington politicians first. These guys excel in snow-jobs, at least they think they do. With the advent of the internet (thanks Owlgore) the gig is up. Any utterance by these statist bastards now goes viral for the full scrutiny, scorn or praise of the public, never a place a Washington politician likes to be. One problem I see with the new press, an able person, that has made mistakes in the past will not get near politics, because of the public scrutiny, that might be problematic on the talent side.

Boehner, and Cantor are inside the Beltway politicians and they’ll argue that, once we’re in we must govern, unfortunately that means operating with the baseline that they find. What we want! …is the status-quo obliterated, and start again, you can’t polish a turd. They are scared to death of the press, and like trained monkeys respond hysterically, case in point, the day of the vote on Barrycare, and the accusation of racial epithets being hurled at the sainted CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) - - Boehner and Steele jumped out of their shoes to apologize, those are not the actions of leaders, but scared followers.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, You make a very good point about the problems of modern politics. We've entered a period where many of the best people simply won't run anymore because of the way politics runs. That leads the worst kind of people to enter the profession. Thus, we get the "leaders" we deserve.

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