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No more Mr. Nice Guy


Whether or not John McCain pulls off an upset today, it's obvious that the GOP is in for some rough sledding over the next few years. Fred Barnes has an excellent op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that explains why our center-right nation is headed for a sharp left turn.

But what may be less evident, even after eight years of eroding Republican political capital, is that the strategy of bipartisanship — championed not only by John McCain but also by George W. Bush — is a failed strategy. Why? Because, simply put, every time a Republican reaches his hand across the aisle, some nasty little Democrat bites it.

The GOP's myopia began after 9/11, when, in the warm glow of seeming national unity, Democrats supported the early phases of the President's Global War on Terror and were rewarded with an unexpected gift: Big Government Republicanism. The No Child Left Behind Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Medicare Part D plan gave a huge boost to Federal spending, vitiating a decades-old record of Republican fiscal restraint. Throw in the cost of financing a necessary but expensive war, and the red-state party of limited government suddenly morphed into the K Street Party of Earmarks and Red Ink.

President Bush compounded this bipartisan folly by allowing two key Clinton-era holdovers — George Tenet at the CIA and Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve — to linger well past their freshness dates. For this largesse, he was rewarded with faulty intelligence going into Iraq ("WMDs are a slam dunk, Mr. President") and the low-interest-rate policies at the Fed that helped bring on the current financial crisis. Tenet and Greenspan made the mistakes, but Democrats saw to it that the George Bush and his fellow Republicans took the political fall. Had the chimerical WMDs in Iraq been ignored and the financial WMDs on Wall Street been recognized, No. 43 might be leaving office with near-Reaganesque popularity ratings.

Still, if Bush embraced bipartisanship only after 9/11, John McCain made it the hallmark of his two decades in the Senate. McCain's criticism of the Iraq war made him the Toast of the Beltway, every Democrat's favorite — that is, right up to the moment he won his party's Presidential nomination.

Then, abruptly, the Dom Pérignon stopped flowing.

The drubbing McCain has taken in the media for failing to accede to the inevitable coronation of Barack Obama (especially the effrontery of choosing an "unvetted" running mate like Sarah Palin) should be an object lesson for Republicans who fondly imagine that acting in good faith toward the liberal establishment will yield anything but scorn and derision. In the immortal words of Otter in Animal House, "You f***ed up. You trusted us."

But if you're going to be vilified as a fear-monger, a race-baiter and a Bush-wannabe anyway, why bother pitching woo to editorial boards, network talk-show hosts and other A-listers on the Georgetown cocktail circuit? Why not hang out instead with the pajamas media, with talk radio listeners or with sportsmen, NASCAR fans, veterans groups, entrepreneurs, chain-restaurant diners and Wal-Mart shoppers? The conversation's bound to be livelier (and definitely more intelligent).

Let's stop fooling ourselves: We're not welcome at the National Press Club. And bipartisanship's a sucker's game. The Democrats kneel behind our knees, and the MSM gives us a push. Yet we get back up and fall for it, over and over.

It's time Republicans stopped being such easy marks. Time we played our own game, by our own rules.

And this time around, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Posted by Rodger on November 4, 2008 at 12:52 PM | Permalink


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