Leadership. Leadership has been the Republican Party's buzzword since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Fighting a war on Islamofascism required stouthearted leadership, Republicans said. Bringing democracy to the Middle East was a task for a determined leadership. Restoring traditional morality and the rule of law could only be accomplished by true leadership.
The vaunted Republican Congress turned out to be all hat, no cattle, to paraphrase President Bush. The Republicans can boast few accomplishments during their four-year control of Congress: tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Only the Alito and Roberts confirmations occurred during the last two years.
Meanwhile, the list of Republican failures is stunning: rejection of the anti-flag-burning amendment, rejection of the amendment to uphold traditional marriage, rejection of a hard-headed measure to assure all of President Bush's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote, passage of a fetal stem cell research bill, refusal to pass a social security fix, dithering on the issue of illegal immigration, out-of-control spending -- all within the last two years.
This was not leadership. This was abdication. And blaming Democrats for obstructionism simply would not fly when Republicans held strong majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Yes, Democrats acted wretchedly, hamstringing our soldiers in the field, undermining our anti-terrorism efforts at home, standing tall for the immoral minority. But that is precisely why Americans had voted Republican in the first place: They wanted a responsible party in power.
What they got was a party so in love with its own power that it abdicated its principles. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), always willing to buckle under for some good press from the liberal establishment, led his bipartisan "Gang of 14" in preventing qualified judicial nominees from receiving floor votes, stumped for an across-the-board ban on torture of terrorists and repeatedly undercut the president's efforts with regard to the war in Iraq. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) pressed the Bush administration on its wiretapping program and threatened to stymie conservative judges. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) railed constantly against the war in Iraq. The House leadership failed to confront the Mark Foley issue, destroying their own credibility on moral issues. And both the Senate and the House refused to reign in their runaway spending.