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Are Establishment Republicans Allergic To Leadership?

June 28, 2010

On January 2, 1995, after eighteen days of a budget standoff between the new Republican congressional majorities and President Bill Clinton, Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole uttered his infamous “Enough is enough!” capitulation, essentially sounding the death knell of the short-lived “Republican Revolution.” Under the leadership of Dole, along with House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-GA), the Republicans were on the cusp of a major redirection in the role and scope of the federal government. But unfortunately, they were not up to the task.

Clinton had vetoed the Republican passed 1995 budget on account of its scaling back of government programs, and the Republicans had refused to pass any new measure, effectively shutting down the government. Media pressure on the Republicans was fierce, with nightly stories of the hardships and deprivations faced by government workers and their families as a result of the cruel Republican tactics. Eventually, the pressure got to Dole and his minions, and they fashioned a retreat strategy. In the end, Bill Clinton got what he wanted.

A critical aspect of that sorry episode, which is rarely ever discussed, is that up until the very day of Dole’s surrender, Clinton’s popularity ratings had dropped like a rock, and were in fact at the lowest point of his entire first term. But once the Republicans backed down, they essentially accepted responsibility for the whole fiasco. And from that point on, it was their own approval ratings that took an enormous hit, while Clinton and the congressional Democrats rebounded.

Bill Clinton made an enormous gamble, and it paid off handsomely. Though the GOP officially retained majority status for eleven more years, the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 was never the same, and ultimately dissipated into bloated budgets, new entitlements, and the implementation of unconstitutional legislation such as the McCain/Feingold campaign finance “reform.”

The lesson of that sorry episode has apparently still not been driven home with the GOP, as evidenced by the abominable actions of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-OH) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R.-VA) this past week. When presented with an opportunity to properly characterize the thug tactics of the Obama political machine, Boehner and Cantor chose instead to revert to the abysmal fawn and grovel strategy of the invertebrate wing of the GOP. And, to nobody’s great surprise, it is working just as badly for them this time around as it always has.

Congressman Joe Barton (R.-TX), who is the ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, took grave exception to Barack Obama’s mishandling of the Gulf oil spill, and in particular his unconstitutional seizure of assets from British Petroleum to the tune of $20 billion. Recognizing the unprecedented nature of Obama’s demand for massive sums of money, rather than focusing any effort towards how the U.S. Government might possibly work with BP to stop the leak, Barton properly derided the situation as a “shakedown” of the corporation. He even went so far as to apologize to BP.

Of course the entire left-wing political/media establishment immediately went ballistic, which is the exact reaction to expect when their treacherous intentions have been so clearly illustrated for the American public. While diligently preventing workable efforts and solutions from being implemented, and instead letting them smother under bureaucratic entanglements Obama and his cronies jumped on the catastrophe as a means of amassing more money for who knows what purpose. Meanwhile, to the detriment of those living on the gulf coast, the oil continues to flow.

With America on the precipice of a major congressional shakeup this fall, Boehner and Cantor could have helped to properly frame this situation as yet another example of an Administration that clearly cares more about making political gains than it does about the well-being of the American people. But this would have required them to stay on message, stand for their principles, and brave the manufactured media firestorm. And once again, they quickly revealed that they were not up to the task. Instead, they turned on Barton with a vengeance. In so doing, they validated the claims of Barton’s attackers, while helping to put a veneer of virtue on the politicking and extortion by Barack Obama.

Sadly, in the face of possible retribution from the Republican leaders, including threats of losing his committee chairmanship, Barton backed down instead of remaining firm and publicly daring Boehner and Cantor to punish him for telling the truth.

Once again, Republicans who should be standing on principle are accepting the judgment of the liberal political establishment and its media cronies. In their insipid attempts to limit the “damage” they were told would result from Barton’s statements, Boehner and Cantor have maximized Democrat political gain from the situation, by validating the contentions of the left. Thus the political right needlessly loses credibility while the “shakedown” is legitimized.

It is senseless to attempt to justify the actions of Boehner and Cantor on the basis that public opinion polls reveal a majority of the American people to be outraged at BP. The standard operating procedure should be no mystery by now. At any given moment, public opinion is driven by media coverage. At this juncture, the standard media presentation is that Obama is a saint, who is coming to the rescue of the beleaguered coastal region. Yet the facade is crumbling. And when it does, all of Obama’s antics, including the shakedown of BP, will be seen in their true light. It is appalling that Boehner and Cantor have so completely forfeited this chance to demonstrate the ugly nature of the Obama Administration. 

From a standpoint of political strategy, the situation is inexplicable. But Washington often works in strange ways. Given the stakes in this year’s upcoming elections, one has to wonder if Boehner, Cantor, and their kind could possibly prefer to enjoy the perks of prominence among the minority party rather than to be burdened with the responsibilities and political “lightning rod” status that comes with majority party leadership.

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Copyright ©2010 Christopher G. Adamo

Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, and has written for regional and national magazines. He is currently the Chief Editorial Writer for The Proud Americans, an advocacy group for America’s seniors, and for all Americans. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.