The Washington Times has a front-page story about House Republican Eric Cantor, who charges that "the Republican Party in Washington is no longer 'relevant' to voters and must stop simply espousing principles..." The story seems designed to help Cantor capture the number two position in the House Republican leadership. But deep inside the article we learn that Cantor "ended up voting for the Democrats' [Wall Street bailout] bill."
Voting for the Wall Street bailout was completely inconsistent with Republican principles, as outlined in the 2008 Republican national platform. That document flatly opposed bailouts and urged the preservation of free markets.
The problem in Washington is not espousing principles, it's living by them.
Cantor was out-of-step with the majority of members of his own party in the House, who voted against the bailout. But he still wants to be promoted to the number two position in the House, right behind Rep. John Boehner, the Republican leader who also supported the bailout. Boehner wants to remain in that post.
Some Republicans like Boehner and Cantor now want to show they mean business when it comes to bailouts by taking a stand against $25 billion for the auto industry. The Times reports, "He [Cantor] said Republicans have to be able to draw lines on future votes such as an automobile manufacturers' bailout, even if it means losing some of their members' support."
After having voted to bail out bankers on Wall Street, how will it look to deny federal aid to American car companies employing ordinary Americans? Calling these Americans "union members" doesn't change the fact that they are people and have families, too. Indeed, a significant number of them are Republicans, like Boehner and Cantor.
This is another public relations disaster in the making for Congressional Republican leaders. All of a sudden they are going to rediscover their principles when jobs in the auto industry are at stake?
As the debate unfolds over the next few days, Boehner, Cantor & Company will come across looking like Scrooge on the matter of saving Americans jobs but Las Vegas high rollers using taxpayer money when it comes to protecting Wall Street interests. And that coverage will be based on their records and rhetoric.
To get an idea of the kind of drubbing they will take, watch the Fox News Sunday show with Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan or read the transcript. Kyl said the car companies should go bankrupt because they have a "bad business model." However, Kyl voted to use taxpayer money to save Wall Street firms with bad business models.
In talking about Wall Street and the financial services industry, Dorgan countered that "Between two and $3 trillion has now been offered up to those folks, $700 billion in a bailout...my point is how about one small fraction of that, 1 or 2 percent maybe, to help a significant part of our economy preserve some jobs? How about speaking up for working people for a change?"
Both Senators are being inconsistent. Kyl voted for the Wall Street bailout but opposes the auto bailout. Dorgan opposed the Wall Street bailout but supports the auto bailout. But Dorgan comes out of the exchange looking far better because he's correct that the proposed Detroit bailout is only a very small part of the money that has already been spent on or committed to Wall Street.
How can Republicans look good by opposing using a small percentage of the bailout money for car companies when they have already bailed out Wall Street? If the "business model" of the car companies is bad and they deserve to fail, what about the "business model" for the incompetent or corrupt Wall Street firms that are getting bailed out? Why weren't they allowed to fail?
The basic problem for the Republicans is that too many of them betrayed their principles when they voted for the Wall Street bailout. They blindly trusted Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and thought that the costly bailout would work. Plus, the media became cheerleaders for the plan, and this added to the pressure.
On Fox News Sunday, Kyl was asked about another federal "stimulus" plan for the economy and sounded like he had rediscovered his conservative principles. He replied, in part: "Washington doesn't grow money on trees. It gets it from the American people." But this was also true in regard to the $700-billion Wall Street bailout that he voted for.
Kyl should have followed the lead of his colleague, Senator James Inhofe, who voted against the bailout because of his belief that it wouldn't work and that it would lead to more bailouts. Proven right on both counts, Inhofe is now proposing to "roll back the bailout" and stop the spending of another $350 billion of bailout money through congressional legislation. On the other side of the aisle, socialist Senator Bernie Sanders also wants to do the same. "Stop the Bailout" is the headline over a press release on his Senate website.
The difference between the two approaches is what has traditionally separated Republicans and Democrats. Sanders still wants to spend the money but on different things than banks. Inhofe says, "It is imperative that we not allow that amount of money to be added to a deficit approaching $1 trillion this year without any input from the legislative branch."
Republicans are accustomed to getting bad coverage from the liberal press, but the kind of approach taken by Kyl, Boehner, Cantor & Company, which supports bailouts for Wall Street financiers but not for Americans making cars, is guaranteed to make it far worse.
No amount of carping about liberal bias will save them this time. These hypocrites will get the bad coverage they deserve.Â Â