“In 2002 and 2004, Republicans ran hard on social issues and the courts - and scored victories at every level of politics. In 2006 and 2008, they left those issues off the table, and got walloped. It follows, naturally, that the social issues are to blame for the Republican defeats,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes in the National Review.
“At least, that’s the conclusion that a chorus of commentators has reached. They are attempting to persuade Republicans to soften or downplay their party’s social conservatism and hide its social conservatives in order to resume winning elections. About this campaign to sideline the social Right, three things can be said with a fairly high degree of confidence: It is predictable; it will fail; and it is wrong,” Mr. Ponnuru said.
“The impulse to blame social conservatives arises nearly every time Republicans fail. They were blamed for the elder Bush’s 1992 defeat, as though he would have won if only Pat Robertson had not spoken at the Republican convention. They were blamed for losses in the House in 1998. And now they are being blamed for McCain’s rout. …
“If the pundits’ advice were right, Republicans would be doomed, since they are highly unlikely to take it. Luckily, that advice is misguided. No, actually, it is worse than that: The case that an overemphasis on socially conservative positions has been a major cause of Republican defeats is obviously ridiculous.
“In 2006, for example, the Republican senator who went down hardest, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, lost to a pro-life Democrat - in an election that also saw pro-abortion senator Lincoln Chafee lose. In 2008, meanwhile, one of the most liberal states in the country, California, banned same-sex marriage by referendum, as 29 other states have also done. In both elections, Democrats played down their social liberalism in most competitive races and instead ran on economics and foreign policy.
“Nonetheless, some people are still at least going through the motions of blaming the defeats on social conservatives and counseling the party to move left on social issues.”
Death of a slur
Sen. Saxby Chambliss‘ victory in a Georgia runoff on Tuesday “lays to rest one of the nastiest McCarthyite smears of recent times: the repeated assertion by Democrats and the media that former Sen. Max Cleland‘s patriotism is in question,” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.opinionjournal.com.
“Cleland was seeking a second term in 2002 when Chambliss ran against him. Chambliss criticized Cleland’s voting record - specifically, his repeated votes against the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security.”
Mr. Cleland and fellow Democrats objected to provisions in the law to give the new department the power to bypass union work rules when considered necessary to national security. “Chambliss accused Cleland of cravenly pandering to special interests,” Mr. Taranto noted.
“Democrats, unable to defend Cleland’s position on the merits, falsely accused Chambliss of questioning Cleland’s patriotism - and thereby introduced into the debate the notion that Cleland’s patriotism was in question. In fact, although Cleland might not have distinguished himself as a U.S. senator, he served courageously in the battlefield in Vietnam, so that his patriotism should be above reproach.”
Mr. Taranto added: “This year, Democrats hoped to exact revenge for Cleland’s 2002 loss by defeating Chambliss. Had Martin prevailed, there’s little doubt his fellow Democrats would have claimed vindication for their McCarthyite effort to smear Cleland as a man whose patriotism is in question. Chambliss’s win therefore should be seen as a victory for civility and decency in politics.”
“If an athlete injures himself and suffers great pain, we’d recognize the shortsightedness of giving him painkillers to keep him going. The pain might be masked, but at the risk of greater injury later,” John Stossel writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.
“That’s a good analogy for the inflationary policies now pursued by Washington. These policies may temporarily ‘stimulate the economy,’ but they also disguise and aggravate the underlying problems. We will all pay a serious price,” Mr. Stossel said.
“Policy makers have thrown caution to the wind. Twelve-digit dollar figures are tossed about casually. The other day, after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson changed course - yet again - and announced that the Federal Reserve would commit $800 billion more in ‘new loans and debt purchases,’ the New York Times reported, ‘Fed and Treasury officials made it clear that the sky was the limit.’
“The total federal commitment to date is over $7 trillion.
“The Fed had given up trying to make it easier for banks to lend to each. Now, the Times reports, it ‘is directly subsidizing lower mortgage rates … doing so by printing unprecedented amounts of money, which would eventually create inflationary pressures if it were to continue unabated.”
“When we hear that the U.S. Treasury is doing this or the Federal Reserve is doing that, we should remember that these agencies are run by mere mortals, and as such, they cannot know how to ‘fix’ something as complex as an economy. But they certainly are capable of wrecking one.
“That’s what their inflationary policies will do.”
“Starting her final turn as the White House Christmas host, a charming Laura Bush [on Wednesday] revealed that the first family will be moving to Dallas, home to the president’s new library and museum, after leaving the executive mansion.” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.
“‘We will be moving to Dallas,’ said Mrs. Bush, handsome in a red suit. The move has the first family thinking frugally about Christmas, she added. ‘We are going to be very, very careful at Christmas,’ she told a gaggle of reporters there to get a peek at the White House’s red, white, and blue decorations. ‘That’s where we will be spending our money,’ she said, referring to the new house.
“That they are moving to Dallas is no surprise. But some locals had thought they would buy land and build a house. Mrs. Bush’s announcement seemed to suggest that they will be buying an existing home.
“It being her last decoration press preview, Mrs. Bush seemed to linger longer to take every question and express her sadness at leaving the house and its staff. ‘It will be the people we will miss the most,’ she said.”
Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or Greg Pierce.