- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Sisterhood is powerful, the feminists keep telling us. And maybe it is, unless you're a Republican.

The Republican sisters "the Weak Sisterhood," as they're known affectionately on the Hill are not even all female. In fact, some of the weakest of the sisters were born male, so sex (or "gender," as the squeamish among us insist on calling "sex") is often irrelevant.

Not all live on the Hill. A few are governors.

Gov. James Gilmore of Virginia, though not a member of the Weak Sisterhood, appears to be eligible for provisional membership after his surrender of Virginia's heritage to the most ignorant of the race hustlers. He cheerfully sacrificed the legacy of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, watering down a mild tribute to Confederate heroes in a transparent attempt to make the Republican Party safe for Maxine Waters and the Rev. Al Sharpton. We must expect the sacrifice next of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the most wicked Virginians of all since they were unrepentant slaveholders, and what did either of them ever do for anybody?

Mr. Gilmore, to be sure, did not invent the Republican strategy of drowning us all in thin mush. But as the chairman of the Republican National Committee he appears to be perfecting this strategy for '02, summed up in that fiery, inspiring Republican slogan, "Vote Republican, We're Not Really as Bad as You Think."

The most immediate threat to the success of the Bush administration, however, does in fact reside in the Senate, where the Weak Sisterhood, ever on the scout for opportunities to flee conflict and combat, is searching for the first chance to run out on George W.'s tax-cut legislation.

The Weak Sisterhood is further allied with John McCain and the Democrats in their attempt to neuter the First Amendment for the sake of making political campaigns safe for Democrats.

George W., who grew up in the take-no-prisoners atmosphere of rowdy Texas politics, arrived in Washington confident of dealing with Democrats. His experience in Austin gave him reason to think he could succeed. He has had more success already than a lot of people thought he would, though it's true that Texas League phenoms often don't have trouble with major-league curve balls until April and May give way to summer. The season doesn't actually start until next week.

It's his own team George W. has to worry about, with John McCain hanging out in the Democratic dugout and a half-dozen Republican colleagues confused about which end of the bat they're supposed to hit with. Most of these sisters are from New England, and the weakest wear trousers. James Jeffords represents Vermont, which is not actually a state but a boutique (a wineglass of chilled chardonnay wreathed in bean sprouts is the symbol of Vermont), and Lincoln Chafee inherited daddy's seat in Rhode Island and his feet don't yet reach the floor. They're tough in the way you would expect two such senators to be tough.

George W. went to Maine last week to try to stiffen spines of Maine's Weak Sisters, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, but we won't know until there's a vote whether such transplant surgery succeeded, though the ladies were thought to be better candidates for backbone transplants.

The Democrats, who know better how to play the game, understand that defeating George W. on either taxes or campaign finance, or both, is crucial to undercutting his ability to do anything else. Asks one frustrated colleague of the Weak Sisters: "Does anyone care that forcing the president to veto an irresponsible bill will affect his ability to carry out a real agenda?"

The behavior of the Weak Sisterhood is usually a puzzle to Republicans and conservatives in more robust precincts of the republic. The last time anyone looked there were no mobs in the streets of Montpelier or Portland, demanding that their taxes be left uncut and threatening to torch the capitol domes if their senators go along with the Bush tax cuts. And not just taxes. There's ample evidence that the public doesn't care about campaign financing, which most Americans recognize as an issue important only to the pundits and bloviators of the dominant-media culture. One recent poll put this issue at No. 42 on public concerns.

Grover Norquist, chairman of Americans for Tax Reform, offers through gritted teeth a credible clue to understanding the squirming in the Weak Sisterhood: "It's part of the dance they just have to do. It's not treasonous. It's understandable."

Well, could be. Taking home a dance card with no names on it is the worst nightmare of the sisterhood. That's why James Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee keep making goo-goo eyes at Democrats in the stag line.

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