Friday, January 06, 2006
The WSJ (Noonan & the Edit Board) Nails It Dead Solid Perfect
There's a lot of talk among Republicans that since the Abramoff scandal involves politicians and staff on both sides of the aisle, the public will not punish the Republicans. This assertion is countered by the argument that while the public will likely see the story as one of government corruption, Congress and the White House are run by Republicans, so Republicans will pay the price. I think this is true, but I think it misses a larger point: In some rough way the public expects the party that loves big government to be pretty good at finagling government, playing with it, using it for its own ends. That's kind of what they do. They love the steamroller, of course they love the grease that makes it run. But the anti-big-government party isn't supposed to be so good at it, so enmeshed in it. The antigovernment party isn't supposed to be so good at oiling the steamroller's parts and pushing its levers. And so happy doing the oiling and pushing.I think that's exactly right. Besides, it doesn't exactly help when there exist quotes from leading conservatives boasting about how they control Capitol Hill and the lobbying houses had better recognize that reality:
Hmm...perhaps, but it might have minimized the GOP's exposure to the "one-party rule" aspect of the corruption in the capital city.
Until the mid-1990s, the K Street corridor, where Washington's top law firms and trade associations are located, was a largely Democratic domain. But the 1994 GOP takeover of the House changed that, especially after Republicans began suggesting - often not so subtly - that the big lobby shops and trade associations start hiring more Republicans or risk disappointments on Capitol Hill.
"Ninety percent of the new top hires are going to Republicans; it should be 100 percent," says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an antitax group. "It would be suicidal of them to go to a Democrat."
The Journal's editorial board gets it too:
What's notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled "conservatives," who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.Message to the Republican Party's congressional wing: Clean up -- or wash out.
When we first wrote about Mr. DeLay's travails last March ("Smells Like Beltway"), some of our friends said we were unfair. But Republicans would be far better off now had they taken our advice to do more to distance themselves from the Abramoff taint. The prospect that Mr. DeLay might still return as leader has contributed to the GOP's recent dysfunction; he and they should move on separately.
More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing.
UPDATE: The GOP shows signs of getting the message. Off in the distance, I think I hear the bubble-gum strings of Steam's number one hit...
Tags: conservatism, Abramoff, corruption