No umbrella men wanted -- not too late for GOP legislative action

Posted: Apr 12, 2006 12:05 AM

My mother, a Londoner, once told me of a song that became popular during the darkest days of World War II: "Be Like The Kettle And Sing," sung by England's wartime sweetheart, Vera Lynn.
I looked up the words and offer a few stanzas for your consideration:

"When all the skies are grey and It's a rainy day/ think of the birdies in spring./ When you're up to your neck in hot water/ be like the kettle and sing. Tell that umbrella man he's just an also ran./ Think of a kid on a swing./ When you're up to your neck in hot water/ be like the kettle and sing ...."

Admittedly, even with the song's cheerful melody, it's not quite a Shakespeare sonnet -- but it beats most of the current conservative columns and televised hand-wringing (including my own from time to time).

If my parents and their fellow Englishmen could put up with descending Nazi bombs on their houses, we should be able to cope with Bush's descending poll numbers without trying to one up Dante's description of hell.

I admit that it is hard to find a political professional who doesn't see public opinion trending toward a decisive Republican defeat in November. On the other hand, nothing in those public surveys suggests that Republican and conservative ideas have lost their popularity. What the public is turning sour on is the Republican Party as an effective vehicle for delivering those ideas.

Thus, to a large extent the Republican Party still has 30 weeks to demonstrate its capacity to fight for Republican ideas.

As a first step, the congressional leaders should think of changing their schedule. Currently they are on track to have the fewest legislative days since the Congress of 1948. Of course, staying in town more only makes sense if the Republicans can unite enough to pass some Republican legislation.

A good place to start would be to pass a budget that includes reduced spending, some forced spending restraint procedures and some tax cuts. Majority Leader John Boehner and Speaker Dennis Hastert need to start off their Easter break bashing some heads together to force a little unity. And the first head they need to bash is on top of the body of the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

If a Republican majority that came to power on a commitment to cut spending and balance the budget cannot even pass a budget ... well, enough said.

Second, the Republicans leaders (Bush, Cheney, Hastert, Frist, Boehner, Specter, Sensenbrenner, etc.) need to ensconce themselves in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House and not come out until they have agreed on a common Republican position on immigration legislation.

They can send out for pizzas, tacos, bagels, shrimp fried rice, sushi, falafels and other all-American foods. But they must stay in the room until they have a deal.

This is not a job for staffers during the break. This is a job for the big boys. And it is particularly a personal job for the biggest boy, W. This is the last possible moment for the president. He must be in the room for days and make this historic legislation a done deal.

I don't want to pre-judge the deal. But any deal that includes, inter alia, an ironclad, bulletproof, fully funded and authorized, no smoke and mirror, non-ersatz, non phony baloney secure southern border is probably a winner. Any deal without that is a sure loser.

Former Republican Party Chairman Eddie Gillespie got that Republican search for common ground off to a thoughtful and conciliatory start in an article in Tuesday's Washington Times.

Once the president has started to provide such personal leadership, Republican congressmen and senators need to put aside all their complaints and misgivings and stand loudly and in unity behind the president across the board -- particularly on Iraq, Iran, leaks and electronic surveillance.

They have the W branded to their foreheads whether they like it or not. A Republican Party actively led by the president, united on the budget and some tax cuts, immigration and foreign policy, legislating vigorously and speaking out clearly and firmly on the rigorous demands of a dangerous world -- is what the country needs. It is certainly what the Party needs.

So, as in the song of yore, although Republicans are up to their necks in hot water, they should be like the kettle and sing.