It’s long been said that there are two kinds of men who seek the presidency: Those who want to be someone, and those who want to do something. As we’ve seen, the same is true when it comes to the Congress.
Recently, it seems that there have been too many of the former among congressional Republicans – and not enough of the latter. Accordingly, the party was chastised by the voters last Tuesday night, when the American people sent Republicans packing. Electoral casualties included good men like Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Jim Talent of Missouri, whose status as incumbents in swing states meant that they were forced to take the punishment that more justly should have been meted out to others.
Yet the damage needn’t be lasting, and it won’t be – that is, as long as Republicans learn the right lessons from their defeat. Everyone knows the voters spoke loudly on Election Day; what’s important is to understand what they actually said.
First, it’s time for Republicans to worry less about enjoying the perquisites of political power, and more about what to do with political power when they have it. Obviously, being in the minority, especially in the House of Representatives, concentrates the mind wonderfully. Fair enough. That’s what happens when voters decide that some congressional Republicans – most notably Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley – are seeking and using their jobs less to serve the country than to benefit themselves, financially and otherwise. Add to that a House leadership whose paramount concern appears to be protecting itself, its congressional majority, and all the trappings of power, and there’s a recipe for electoral disaster.
Dishonest, disgusting or cowardly behavior is galling to the electorate at any time, but never more than when the country is at war. Certainly, contrary to what lefties are claiming, the election wasn’t a referendum on our presence in Iraq. Voters aren’t angry that the United States is trying to secure Iraq and establish a foothold for democracy in the Middle East. Instead, they’re frustrated at a war that, it seems, is being fought with half measures, little discernible forward progress, and an Administration that appears hesitant about presenting a thorough, sure-footed case for our continued presence there or a clear plan for victory.
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