Debra J. Saunders
Move over, John McCain. It doesn't matter that you voted against the Bush tax cut. There's a new media darling in town. Remember how pundits scolded former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for saying that President Clinton's snub on Air Force One contributed to the GOP's moves to close down the federal government? Well, the same people who thought Gingrich was being a big baby -- and he was -- are offended that the Bush White House didn't invite Vermont Sen. James Jeffords to a Rose Garden Teacher of the Year ceremony. The same people who will never forgive Ralph Nader for bolting the Dem party happily applaud Jeffords for standing up for his principles. I can't get indignant about Jeffords' defection. In politics, these things happen. It's good for a party; keeps the suits on their toes and tilts them toward the middle. True, Jeffords could have left with more style. He might have realized that George W. Bush's agenda offended his sensibilities before he started campaigning for him. (As it is, it seems as if Jeffords was happy to support the GOP, but only as long as the party treaded water.) Jeffords might have announced that he was resigning his seat to run for re-election as an independent -- following the lead of Phil Gramm of Texas, who resigned from his House seat when he switched from the Dem to Repub party. Gramm handily won re-election in 1984, and later was elected to the Senate. But, if Jeffords wants Gramm to trump him in the style department, hey, that's his business. At least Jeffords stuck with the GOP through the big-and-beautiful tax cut vote Saturday. (The San Francisco Chronicle reports that many Bay Area residents would prefer not to have a tax cut. No doubt these principled folk will return their rebates to Uncle Sam, rather than deposit said checks in their grubby little bank accounts.) There is one problem, however, and that's the media declaration that Jeffords is a "moderate." As the Almanac of American Politics notes, Jeffords was the only Republican in Congress to support the Clinton health-care package. He has supported more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which is hardly a mainstream position. He opposes vouchers to rescue students from ignorance. For too many Repubs, he said last week, "success seems to be measured by the number of students moved out of public schools." Make that failing public schools, Senator. National Taxpayers Union Senior Policy Analyst Tom McClusky reviewed Jeffords' legislative record and concluded, "In the 103rd Congress (1993-4), Jeffords' overall proposed agenda had a $456 billion price tag, a figure 20 times more than the average Republican senator's net agenda to save taxpayers $23 billion." Indeed, McClusky found that since the 103rd Congress, Jeffords proposed spending some $276 billion more the average Democratic senator. This is moderate? What appalls McClusky isn't the GOP losing Jeffords, but that some GOPers were "trying to keep him in the Republican Party but using taxpayer money to do it" -- there was talking of increasing federal education spending to keep Jeffords on the reservation. What is it about the Beltway? If Jeffords wanted to cut taxes more than the average Republican, he would be branded an anti-tax radical. But if he wants to add more federal programs that bite into the surplus, he is hailed as a moderate. Spending is prudent. Not spending is profligate. Abandon logic, all ye who enter.

Debra J. Saunders


 
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