The aptly named Republican "retreat" last weekend at the ritzy Greenbrier resort in West Virginia should have included Democrats because Republicans are behaving just like them.
There was President Bush arguing for his "bipartisan stimulus package" and supporting government handouts with borrowed money. Republicans can always cut a bipartisan deal if they behave like Democrats.
House Republican Leader John Boehner implored his fellow Republicans to "sacrifice" by agreeing to a one-year moratorium on earmarks to "prove" that Republicans are the party that can fix Washington. Someone should have pointed out to Boehner that the word "fix" is also used to describe the neutering that occurs at a veterinarian's office to keep a pet from reproducing. The Republican Party is engaging in self-mutilation.
President Bush, according to The Wall Street Journal, chose to "use his State of the Union address to lay down his toughest anti-earmarking pledge to date tell Congress that he will veto any fiscal 2009 spending bill that doesn't cut earmarks in half from 2008 levels" and issue "a Presidential order informing executive departments that from now on they should refuse to fund earmarks that aren't explicitly mentioned in statutory language."
This would have been more credible and more effective had it occurred when Republicans controlled Congress. Too many Republicans continue to embrace the notion that more spending on pork barrel projects will keep them in office. They should have been disabused of that notion when they lost control of Congress in the 2006 election, largely because their collusion with President Bush on spending and expansion of government mimicked the Democrats. The Republican rank and file and Independent voters prefer their liberalism straight up rather than diluted by party leaders.
The best opportunity Republicans had at their retreat to prove they see the light on spending was to name the tireless anti-pork crusader Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, to the powerful Appropriations Committee. This would have been the equivalent of placing a preacher at the entrance to a house of ill repute, or a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union on an alcohol beverage and control board. The analogies are apt because too many politicians are drunk on power and behave like harlots with other people's money.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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