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PARISI: RINO treachery

Moderate Republicans have a history of slaying their own

- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2010

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men." — Former French President Charles de Gaulle

Apparently, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, didn't get the memo, or, because she's a woman, perhaps she didn't think it applied to her. Either way, despite being beaten fairly and squarely in the Alaskan Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on Aug. 24 by Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, Mrs. Murkowski on Sept. 17 announced a long-shot write-in bid to retain her seat — the only probable outcome of which will be to siphon off enough votes to hand the Democratic nominee a chance to win he wouldn't have had otherwise.

This is the same Mrs. Murkowski on whom the irony apparently was lost when, on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sept. 19, she castigated Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, for backing Mr. Miller in the primary: "I don't think it's particularly helpful to undercut fellow Republicans."

One is left to ask: Where is Karl Rove now? Suddenly something of a folk hero on the left for repeatedly assaulting the Senate candidacy of Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, who toppled another Republican in name only (RINO) in Rep. Michael N. Castle, Mr. Rove has been strangely mute on this latest example of what I call RINO treachery.

As the Electoral-vote.com blog noted, "Right-wing pundits and bloggers are infuriated with [Mrs. Murkowski], pointing out that ... when conservative Ovide Lamontagne lost by the slimmest of margins to Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, he didn't even ask for the recount he was legally entitled to, but simply endorsed her as the winner. The message is that when conservatives lose, they accept defeat and graciously concede, but when moderates lose, they refuse to accept the will of the people."

As such, don't be surprised if Mr. Castle — who didn't even have the decency to make the customary call to congratulate Ms. O'Donnell on primary-election night — endorses the Democratic candidate, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, aka Sen. Harry Reid's "pet." Mr. Castle has said he won't, but he spoke by phone with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. the night of his loss, so don't rule it out.

Nor are Mrs. Murkowski's and Mr. Castle's cases isolated examples of the "Heads we win, tails you lose" politics played by RINOs over the years:

• The son of defeated Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah RINO, is backing the Democratic nominee there for Senate against Mike Lee, the man who beat his father.

• Charlie Crist, Florida RINO, in a joint appearance in March on "Fox News Sunday" with Marco Rubio, insisted he would not launch an independent bid if he didn't win the Republican nomination. He was being honest, after a fashion: He jumped ship before the Florida Republican primary, so he can honestly say it wasn't after losing. Mr. Crist is facing a lawsuit in state court brought by two Republican donors who are demanding he be required to give back campaign funds Republican donors gave him before he abandoned the party. He has refused thus far.

• Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska RINO, endorsed the Democratic nominee, Rep. Joe Sestak, in this fall's Pennsylvania Senate race.

• Former Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut RINO, indicated he probably would not endorse rival Linda McMahon, who defeated him for the party's Senate nod, even though she's no Tea Party candidate.

• After taking about $900,000 in National Republican Congressional Committee funds late last year in a special congressional election, Dede Scozzafava, New York RINO, pulled out of the race in the 23rd Congressional District in a fit of pique and endorsed the Democrat over the Conservative Party nominee, Doug Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman, who also would have had the Republican ballot line had it not been for local party bosses nominating Mrs. Scozzafava in a smoke-filled room, narrowly lost.

• When then-Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, Maryland RINO, lost the 2008 Maryland Republican primary to conservative state Sen. Andy Harris, he endorsed the Democratic nominee, Frank Kratovil Jr., who went on to win by a razor-thin margin even though the district went for Sen. John McCain by a wide margin at the presidential level. As such, it clearly was Mr. Gilchrest's endorsement that made the difference. (Update: Mr. Harris is taking on Mr. Kratovil in a rematch in November. Apparently still nursing a grudge, Mr. Gilchrest has again endorsed Mr. Kratovil.)

• Even though Mr. McCain has often been one of their own, RINO Colin L. Powell (a White House fellow, national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state under four Republican presidents); Mr. Hagel; Mr. Gilchrest; former Rep. Jim Leach, Iowa RINO; and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island RINO, all endorsed Barack Obama for president. By contrast, Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was the only non-Republican of any significance to endorse Mr. McCain.

• Sen. "Benedict" Arlen Specter, endorsed by President George W. Bush in 2004 for the Republican nomination over then-Rep. Pat Toomey, repaid the favor by becoming a Democrat in 2009 because he knew he'd lose his GOP primary rematch in 2010 to Mr. Toomey. In a bit of cosmic karma, however, what goes around came around for Mr. Specter: He lost the Democratic primary.

• Sen. James "Judas" Jeffords, Vermont RINO, in May 2001, just six months after winning re-election as a Republican, struck a deal with then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, switching to independent but caucusing with Democrats, in effect handing control of an evenly divided Senate to the Democrats.

• Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia RINO, in 1994 endorsed Marshall Coleman, a Republican-turned-independent, over Oliver North, who lost his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb 46 percent to 43 percent, with Mr. Coleman getting 11 percent.

• When Mr. Chafee — who had survived a strong conservative challenge in the Republican primary — lost his re-election bid in November 2006, he was asked by the Associated Press whether he felt that his loss might have helped the country by tipping control of power in the Senate to the Democrats. He replied: "To be honest, yes." Mr. Chafee is now running a third-party bid for governor of Rhode Island. It would be karma indeed if his candidacy tipped the race to the Republican nominee.

• Former Rep. Joe Scarborough of Florida was a solid conservative while in the House, but now, as a talk-show host on liberal MSNBC, he appears to have fallen victim to Stockholm syndrome and regularly trashes conservatives.

• The week before last, former Sen. Al D'Amato, New York RINO, joined two former New York Democratic officeholders in trashing that state's Tea Party-backed Republican gubernatorial nominee, Carl Palladino. "[Palladino] is dangerous; at the least, he is mean-spirited, and he tries to divide people." Mr. D'Amato told WCBS Radio. Mr.Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo, fired back that the three men were career politicians who only wanted to preserve their insider access. "You would expect that kind of rhetoric from pigs whose heads are being pulled from the trough," Mr. Caputo said, not putting too fine a point on it.

At the root of it, RINOs are part of a bipartisan political clique that Angelo M. Codevilla, in a lengthy piece in the American Spectator in July, dubbed "the ruling class," which views elective office as an entitlement program of their own, for which Tea Party types like Ms. O'Donnell and her counterpart in Nevada, Sharron Angle - "the country class" - need not apply.

If Mr. Obama and the Democrats' mantra this election cycle is that the Republicans drove the economy into the ditch, it could be more easily argued that Senate RINOs have ridden shotgun as the 60th votes as the Obama agenda has driven the economy off the cliff, a la "Thelma & Louise."

I recently challenged a RINO-defending Republican friend of mine who lives in Florida and is inexplicably infatuated with Mr. Crist to come up with a single comparable example, other than Mr. DeMint, of conservative treachery toward RINOs. The best she could do was to hearken back to 1962, claiming that Richard Nixon blamed California conservatives' sitting on their hands for his losing the governorship that year. Note that she had to go back a half-century for a single example.

Similarly, if there are any examples of Democrats cannibalizing their own, they don't readily spring to mind. The closest parallel might be Mr. Lieberman's re-election bid in 2006 in Connecticut. Thrown overboard in the primary in favor of a left-wing insurgent, Mr. Lieberman ran as an independent and won — and was quickly welcomed back into the Senate Democratic caucus. The far left fielded a challenger to Sen. Blanche Lincoln this year, but she prevailed in the Arkansas Democratic primary, and I'm unaware of any big-name Democrats backing her Republican opponent.

In short, Democrats never, ever back-stab members of their own party — at least not publicly — the way RINOs do. Karl Rove would do well to take note.

• Peter Parisi is an editor for The Washington Times. E-mail him at pparisi@washingtontimes.com.

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