Thursday, November 11, 2004


What is it with liberal Republican senators from Pennsylvania?


SWEET SURRENDER. It must be somewhat embarrasing for a senator as long-serving and self-regarding as Arlen Specter to have to pen what amounts to a lengthy apologia to conservative leaders and publish it in the Wall Street Journal for all the world to read. But he did so anyway. This op-ed is rather pathetic to read. In it, Specter goes to great lengths to establish exactly how big of a doormat he plans to be regarding George W. Bush's judicial hominees -- and, indeed, has always been!

From now on, it appears, GOP committee chairs in Congress serve on the sufferance of James Dobson, via the president. So much for the separation of powers -- and so much for the big tent.

Other centrist Republicans, take note. This is your party. Cry if you want to!

-- Nick Confessore

This reminds me of Doonesbury's joke when Richard Schweiker, before the 1976 Republican National Convention, agreed to be Ronald Reagan's vice presidential candidate if Reagan defeated President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. Schweiker, a liberal Republican senator from Pennsylvania, had spent a career espousing policies and values antithetical to everything Reagan stood for.

The cartoon shows Schweiker at a press conference announcing his decision to run with Reagan. A reporter asks him, "Senator, how long does it take to betray everything you ever stood for?" Schweiker replies, "36 hours. The paperwork's incredible."

It took Specter a little longer than that, but not much. He sure fought the good fight for Republican moderates, didn't he?

Which brings up another problem. Everyone points out how few conservative Democrats are left. Why doesn't anyone ever mention the rapid disappearance (soon to be virtual extinction) of Republican moderates?

We are rapidly developing parties that are not truly national in scope but rather ideological. It used to be that there was a spectrum of ideologies in both parties, although conservative Democrats were to the left of conservative Republicans and liberal Republicans were to the right of liberal Democrats. You used to have genuine debates within the parties. That's vanishing (although the Democrats are indeed having a real debate, although it's mostly moaning about what went wrong this year; there hasn't been a genuine debate inside the Republican Party since the campaigns for their 1980 presidential nomination). You're getting a debate between the parties, but it's really more a shouting match than a true discussion about issues and policy choices and disagreements.

I don't like the idea of the parties really separating over ideology. I think that hardens positions and rewards extremists. I think it leads to the worst of each side's ideas getting the most attention and ensures deadlock. I would rather see both parties continue to contain wide spectrums of approaches, since this would make compromise possible, perhaps lower the bitterness of the rhetoric, and encourage people of good will on all sides to lessen their expectations and demands for the greater good of the country and the world.

Yeah, I know. About as likely as Michael Moore and John O'Neill skinny-dipping together in the Tidal Basin.

P.S. I really like Confessore's observation about James Dobson now having veto power over Congressional committee chairs (well, I don't like it, but I think it's an excellent point). What else does Dobson have veto power over?

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