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EDITORIAL: Bob Dole’s bad advice

Republicans must stick to principle if they hope to regain the White House

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Former Sen. Bob Dole's diagnosis of what supposedly ails the GOP today is as woefully outdated as you might expect from someone who has been out of office for 17 years.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" over the Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Dole fondly recalled his days as leader of the Senate Republicans from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. The Kansas Republican was the upper chamber's quintessential aisle-crossing dealmaker, a role that earned him the sobriquet of "tax collector for the welfare state" from Newt Gingrich, the upstart from Georgia who became speaker of the House. Asked by host Chris Wallace about the state of the Republican Party today, Mr. Dole snarkily suggested that "they ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says 'closed for repairs' until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas."

Democrats gleefully seized upon Mr. Dole's words, knowing they would aid their campaign to paint the Republican Party as dominated by "extremists" (the same campaign they've been running since 1964). Mr. Dole's broadside was aimed at the Tea Party, the group that was largely responsible for Republicans regaining control of the House in 2010 in a landslide election that even President Obama characterized as a "shellacking" for his Democrats. In fact, the Tea Party's effectiveness in that election cycle goes a long way in explaining why leftists at the IRS took extraordinary — possibly illegal — means to sandbag the applications for tax-exempt status from Tea Party groups in the walk-up to the 2012 elections.

When Mr. Wallace asked Mr. Dole whether "Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans like Bob Dole, even Ronald Reagan" could "make it in today's Republican Party," the former Kansas senator, who turns 90 in July, said flatly, "I doubt it." The premise that Reagan would be shunned by today's GOP or that the Gipper would now encourage a move to the center is preposterous. Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 1975, in the wake of the dismal post-Watergate elections of 1974, Reagan advised staying true to conservative principles.

"I don't know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, 'We must broaden the base of our party' — when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents," Reagan said. " Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors, which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?"

As the winner of two landslide presidential elections, Reagan earned his credibility when it comes to electoral strategy. We'll take his advice over Mr. Dole's any day.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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