Regular readers of these columns will not have been taken by surprise by the recent turn of events against the Republicans in the forthcoming Congressional elections. I have warned for several months that the GOP faces "a handsome drubbing."
In part this is simply a reaffirmation of the old truism that the party in the White House traditionally suffers losses in Congress in the Congressional elections of its second term. In further part, however, it is a byproduct of the fact that this particular administration and its allies in Congress have succumbed to the familiar temptations of power.
Having controlled the White House and both Houses of Congress, as well as most of the major governorships, for almost all of the past six years, the Republican members of Congress have faithfully imitated the mistakes of their Democratic predecessors. Promises of budgetary frugality went out the window, and the members lined up to bring home federal pork for their districts. The device of the "earmark" was exploited beyond even the Democrats' wildest dreams. Inevitably, fragrant crooks like Jack Abramoff managed to steal millions with the help of a few corrupt politicians.
By midsummer it was clear that the American people had noticed all this, and were preparing to respond in the only way voters in a two-party system can: by throwing the rascals out, and throwing the other rascals in. The Democrats have done virtually nothing to merit victory, but they don't need to. All they have to do is be there when the GOP loses.
In August, President Bush did what he could to save his party. His role in the coming defeat was largely tied to his perceived failure to bring about a successful conclusion of the Iraq war, and he hit the road in a series of effective speeches in defense of his Mideastern policies. In addition, the British nipped an Islamic plot to blow up ten airliners headed for America, and the fifth anniversary of 9/11 reminded anyone who needed reminding of the dangers America faces.
The result was a brief uptick in Republican prospects, as reflected in the polls. The American people still trusted the GOP more than the Democrats when it came to security matters. But then came Robert Woodward's latest book, purportedly revealing that the Bush administration had ignored warnings about Al Qaeda's intentions in the months preceding Sept. 11. The book's publication came just as the public's attention began to focus on the elections coming in November, and undoubtedly damaged the GOP's image as a defender of the nation's security.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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