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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Failure Within The GOP

I'm no fan of the Boston Globe, but they have a good point to be made about the GOP's woes in the Senate.
(HT: Captain's Quarters) http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005993.php

Senate majority leader Bill Frist, heading a 55-to-45 Republican majority, might have expected to deliver a pile of legislative gifts this month to the White House, which had hoped to end the year with $40 billion in budget cuts, approval to drill for oil in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, and the full extension of the Patriot Act giving expanded powers to law enforcement.

But Frist, a Tennessee Republican with his eye on the White House, found his party in a pre-Christmas dogfight yesterday, with GOP lawmakers joining united Democrats in a series of embarrassing setbacks for President Bush and the Republican agenda.

The budget-cutting bill went through, but it required Vice President Dick Cheney to cut short an overseas trip to cast the tie-breaking vote. Further, Democrats succeeded in challenging a technical point on the bill that will force the House to vote on it again, delaying its adoption until at least late January.

Dismissing suggestions that it would be unpatriotic to block a defense bill, most of the Democrats -- joined by two Republicans -- staged a filibuster to block $453 billion in defense appropriations because the measure included authorization to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The defense appropriations bill later passed, stripped of the drilling authorization.

And, we again, opted to avoid another fight. Whenever push comes to shove, Frist either stalls to the point that he is undermined (the Gang of 14 deal), or they give in. America is sick of seeing spineless and rudderless Republicans in the Senate, or ones that can't seem to be reined in by the leadership when the vote counts.

And last night the Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act by only six months to allow more negotiations over civil liberties protections. Earlier, a group of 52 senators, including eight Republicans, had signed a letter to Frist asking that he allow them to extend the act for just three months instead of making it permanent.

In my opinion, an act with the importance of the Patriot Act should be made permanent. This is an extra level of eyes and ears that we have to avoid being attacked. The Patriot Act, had it been in place, might have led us to the hijackers on 11 Sept. Vice president Dick Cheney made that claim earlier this week, citing the San Diego hijackers as an example. Further, the "civil liberties" arguments don't wash. The amount of complaints filed in such violations have been found to be unwarranted, and at times blatantly false. The Clinton attack machine did more illegal acts in digging up dirt on political enemies than the Patriot Act ever has.

Republican leaders were also scrambling to get enough votes to approve another spending bill for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. GOP moderates and Democrats balked at the package because it cut popular programs such as food stamps, scientific research, and the No Child Left Behind education programs.

Lord no, not food stamps. Honestly, I have no real problem with welfare, provided the steps are taken to get them off the welfare at some point in their lives. I have worked in neighborhoods with generation after generation on food stamps and welfare. Honestly, it's day has come to reform it. (Pray I never get control of that authority; I'd submit every recepient to urine analysis. If you can support your habits, you can support your family.) But, when the Senate throws a hissy fit, like they did on the "Bridge to Nowhere" from Alaska, there have to be cuts made somewhere. If we truly had a moral and responsbile Congress, we'd have no need to make budget cuts in what some would call "necessary." Those things--pork projects--wouldn't be in the budget to begin with leaving plenty of money for the necessities to be funded. Simple logic, which is a concept that Congress fails to grasp.

Republicans attributed some of their party's defections to the politics of a looming election year and the willingness of moderate Republican senators from New England to defy the president.

And those moderates might actually have overplayed their hand. As I think many of the moderates up for reelection are about to be surprised at the opposition facing them, and their constituents that are entirely unhappy with them. Moderates like Snowe, Chafee, and DeWine have some explaining to do to their constitutents. Their open, blatant opposition to the president is more than apparent, and it's not liked by the base; especially in regard to national security issues like the Patriot Act.

But others say that Frist, balancing his presidential ambitions with the task of running the Senate, is not doing what's needed to keep his caucus together.

''I'm not sure Frist is the kind of guy who can deal with the Senate the way it is right now. I think you need a head-cracker, and I don't think that's his style," said Daron Shaw, a University of Texas political science professor who worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000.

Understatement of the year. Lyndon John, when he was in the Senate, made Tom DeLay look like Bambi. He ran the Senate with an iron fist practically. The "schoolyard rules" of politics were well-enforced by then Sen. Johnson. This is the sort of leader the GOP needs in the Senate. The GOP needs to know, and understand, that if you want your little pet projects dealt with, you're going to play party ball or else you're going to be reduced to irrelevence.

Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican who lost the leader's post to Frist, said the GOP leader needed to be tougher on his colleagues to deliver the president's priorities. ''The leader has to be prepared to roll people," Lott said. Asked whether Frist was doing that, Lott said, ''No."

Frist and his supporters attributed the legislative losses and delays to ''obstructionist" Democrats and a few unruly Republicans.

''I think it's childish," Frist said of the efforts to stop the budget cuts. ''You'll have to ask individuals who voted against that, both on the Republican and the Democrat side," why they tried to thwart the president's priorities, he said.

No, Sen. Frist. YOU need to ask them. You need to know why they're obstructing the president's agenda. If they disagree with the president on paltry issues, fine. That's their neck on the chopping block to the single-issue voters. The base is not the single issue voter; we're the ones keeping the conservative message on track. And that message has been sorely lacking of late. We care about more than an environmental bill, or a welfare bill, or an education bill. Right now, we are focused on the one thing the Left is consistently obstructing the president on, and that's the war.

Here's quick reminder to Sen. Frist, the rest of thr woblly Republican caucus, and the Democrat obstructionists: The war is the primary focus of this nation right now because if we lose it, nothing else matters, you idiots. You won't have to worry about your pet projects because there won't be a nation that cares about them. The freedom and liberty that is here now will be long gone if our enemies succeed in defeating us. Right now, they're not. But when the GOP sides with the Democrats over false talking points, and phony concerns regarding civil liberties, and filibusters a key weapon in our arsenal, they just might accomplish that ask yet. The people in congress blow it off when they're accused of enabling our enemies, but the history revolving around the sort of obstructionism concerning the war is well documented.

Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, said it was unrealistic to expect Frist to keep the entire GOP caucus united on all legislation. ''I think the leaders need to clarify the issues to the American people" to build support. But ''if the votes aren't there, they aren't there," Sessions said.

To Sen. Sessions, I just stated above that if their projects are important to them, and they choose to buck the caucus, that's up to them, and they can deal with the repercussions from that stand. But when it comes to party politics on important issues--like the Patriot Act, like the Defense Appropriations Bill, like the war, in general--your vote had better be there. That is where the leader can exercise his leadership abilities, and Sen. Frist is incapable of even that.

Frist, a heart surgeon, was touted when he became leader in early 2003 as a sensible lawmaker who could heal bitter partisanship. When the GOP expanded its majority to a 10-seat margin after the 2004 elections, he appeared in an even stronger position to deliver for the White House and buttress his 2008 presidential bid.

But with the Democrats united behind a new minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Republicans more willing to defy an unpopular president, Frist's frustration has been obvious. The normally even-toned senator erupted last month when Senate Democrats demanded a closed session to discuss the congressional investigation into the intelligence used to build support for the Iraq war.

I disagree with the notion that Pres. Bush is unpopular. If this were the case, based solely on polls, then Reagan, Bush, Sr., and Clinton were likewise unpopular. The president's numbers are just slightly below 50%; not an uncommon occurrence for a second term president. And frankly, it's about time that he blew his top over the questioned intelligence for the war. Bloggers have been screaming at them to shup up for two years. We've thrown everything in their faces from the fact that it was very much the same intelligence used by Pres. Clinton in 1998 to attack Iraq, and that caused them to vote for a resolution for regime change in Iraq, to the fact that they voted for the hostilities in 2003 after looking--again--at that same intelligence.

This week, Frist was unable to finagle support for key initiatives, especially from three Republican senators from New England -- Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Chafee voted against drilling in the wildlife refuge and the budget-cutting measure, and also signed the letter asking for an extension to renegotiate the Patriot Act.

Senator John E. Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, has been a leader in calling for changes to the Patriot Act, saying it erodes the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.

And Sununu has no clue as to what he's talking about. Again this is a talking point of the Left, and they have no proof--none, zilch, zero--that anyone's civil liberties have been violated.

''It's embarrassing for the Senate majority leader not to be able to hold things together, given the fact that he has a 10-seat margin," said Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University. ''It doesn't speak very highly to his leadership skills."

No, it doesn't speak too highly of his skills at all. As a matter of fact, the more that Frist can't hold the party together in the Senate shows that there's no way in Hell that this nation will vote for him for president. His presidential aspirations are going up in smoke every time he doesn't take a stand against those standing against the president and the nation.

Lott and others said Frist's presidential ambitions are complicating his role as leader. As a candidate, Frist is under pressure to win over various GOP constituencies, but as leader, he must sometimes act like a school principal, refereeing disputes among members.

''It's tough to straddle a presidential campaign and a leadership position in the Senate. Most people who tried that in the past have failed at both tasks," West said, referring to such past Senate leaders as Bob Dole and Howard Baker, who became presidential candidates. ''They haven't ended up being president, and they lose control of the Senate."

Another valid point. Those that try to juggle more than their primary job--their most important job--end up doing a terrible job doing that one, and all the others. This is one of the reasons why they don't serve on a committee. But Frist, like all US Senators, seems to envision himself being president some day, and those aspirations seem to have clouded his thinking.

The GOP in the Senate needs to be practically pistol-whipped into shape. I have no problem with the occasional runaway maverick, but John McCain's taken that moniker to new heights. Lincoln Chaffee runs away the moment his leash is slack. Arlen Specter seems this think he runs the show on everything to judicial nominees to Terrell Owens. The gaggle of gals--Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski--are more often than not worse than wrong. And, Lindsey Graham has his nose so far up John McCain's backside that the two of them could be the new Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. (You choose which one the dummy is.)

This is what Frist has to contend with on his side of the aisle. He's a compassionate conservative to a fault; his own. It's a good thing this man is retiring this year, and not running for reelection. Hopefully a less wobbly Republican can win his seat, and the leadership in the Senate will find someone far more suitable for the position. Or, at least one less distracted by the world around him, and more focused on the tasks at hand.

Publius II


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