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Pundit Roundtable

Booyah! Welcome back everyone to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, your weekly dose of intelligent discourse on the issues. I am your host, Ken McCracken.

Our topic this week is this:

Now that the Dubai ports deal has fallen through, and with all the rancor these days over pork, immigration, policy failures such as Social Security reform, and a backlash over the Iraq War, is the Republican party cracking up as some have suggested?

What does Karl Rove need to do?

Our first guest is returning pundit extraordinaire, Rick Moran of Rightwing Nuthouse. Rick?

The ports deal will be seen in retrospect as an hysterical interlude and not much more. The ineptness demonstrated by the White House in handling first, the vetting of the transaction and then the backlash against it was troubling but hardly a reason to think that it had any broad implications for the Republican party.

That said, the party's problems are systemic and will not go away. This is the result of modern conservatism, an ideology born in minority opposition, making a poor transition to majority status. Part of that is the tension engendered by conservatism having to adjust to being a governing philosophy while its primary tenets rest on an anti-government foundation. This tension has resulted in a split between ideologues and pragmatists.

The pragmatists - call them National Conservatives - recognize that in order to govern a 21st century industrialized democracy, some compromises are necessary with the welfare state. They are also the most concerned with maintaining Republicans as a majority party and are unabashed at using the federal spigot to "earmark" their way to re-election. They maintain a conservative outlook on social issues like abortion and they support tax cuts and a robust foreign policy. Watch over the next 6 months as some of the more politically vulnerable among them abandon the President on Iraq.

The ideologues - call them True Blue Conservatives - are found mostly in the netroots and the hinterlands of red state America. Their numbers in Congress are relatively small and only recently have they begun to seriously rebel against the National Conservatives' control of Congress. The contest for Majority Leader surprised the TB Conservatives as they may not have realized how influential they could be. The recent budget proposal coming from the House Republican Study Committee reflects a newfound confidence by the TB conservatives to at the very least have more of a say in Congressional budget matters.

There is little chance that these two camps will suffer some irrevocable split any time soon. The glue that holds the two parts together - tax cuts, social issues, and to a large extent the War in Iraq and a general agreement on the nature of the War on Terror - guarantee that at least through the 2008 elections, the Republican party will be united. This is not to say that other fissures that exist between libertarians and social conservatives as well as isolationists and neo-cons are going to go away. In fact, in the long run the conservative crack-up is more likely to occur as a result of these internecine battles rather than any fight between the National and True Blue Conservatives. That is because at bottom, it's about maintaining power. And in that regard, even the TB Conservatives can force themselves to be pragmatic enough to maintain the status quo.

As for what Rove can do about it, I daresay the Evil One is less engaged on matters of Republican unity these days except as it relates to legacy building by the President. In that, I fully expect Rove to work dutifully to help get out the vote in '06 and perhaps even try and swing the '08 Republican nomination to someone who would build upon Bush's legacy. I have no idea who that would be but I'm pretty sure it won't be anyone named McCain.

Rick crossposted his response at his site, a practice we encourage here at Pundit Roundtable, in that it fosters even more discussion.

I am pleased to introduce our next guest, Roundtable newcomer Dennis The Peasant. What do you say, Dennis?

Your questions presume the Republican Party I joined in 1982 still exists.

When I look at John McCain, Bill Frist, Tom DeLay and Duncan Hunter, I see the doppelgangers of an enervated and corrupt Democratic Party leadership that I abandoned 24 years ago. I look at these men, then look at those who preceded them – Jim Wright, Tony Coelho, Dan Rostenkowski, Ted Kennedy – and see a distinction without a difference.

This Republican Party has become exactly what it set out to destroy. Republicans marched into Washington with a Contract with America in 1994, and in less than a decade and a half have descended to depths of corruption, careerism and moral cowardice I could not have imagined from either party.

Where Ronald Reagan alive today, he would no doubt be working tirelessly to destroy these men and what they have wrought. And I would be with him in that task. Today’s Republican Party epitomizes the very things Reagan worked his whole life to defeat.

The Republican Party is not cracking up: It has ceased to exist.

Is that a hard-hitting answer or what? Dennis also crossposted his response, thanks.

The Host's Last Word : Clearly, the Republican Party has some big troubles right now. I am tempted to mention that the Democratic Party's woes are far greater (oops, I guess I just did mention it), but that should not be the focus here, because the Republicans need to put their own house in order. A good offense should not rely on the shoddy defenses of its opponent.

There have always been deep fissures within the Republican Party - events of late have not created these fissures, but merely brought them to the surface. That is not necessarily an unhealthy thing, the GOP remains a big tent, and many divergent - and even conflicting - opinions are allowed and even encouraged. The Dubai deal was an example of this, although the Dubai ports deal went down the wrong way in my opinion. The cleverer approach toward national security would have been to approve the deal, in that the long-term political victory of bolstering the UAE as an ally would outweigh the increased security risk of having an Arab firm operate the ports. Yet, the will of the people was served. Right or wrong, the American people overwhelmingly disapproved of the deal, and in the end they prevailed. Congress was responsive, and the Republicans did not let unblinking loyalty to the President get in the way of doing what their constituencies demanded of them. The President too stood firm, and was prepared to fight for this deal in the face of strong opposition. The entire debate showed strength in the Republican Party, not weakness.

But I think Dennis is right to a large degree. In my heart, I know that much of what he said is true. The Republicans set out to conquer Washington, which they did, only in turn to be conquered by Washington and its toxic culture. A culture of complacency. A culture of mere lip service to Republican ideals. A culture largely removed from the sentiments of the people. The insidious inside-the-beltway culture of comfort and, dare I say, corruption even.

The answer for Karl Rove is simple: return to the core values of the party. The Republican Party needs to become a party of reform, in order to reform itself. We have the power, we hold the reins, we lack only the will to get it done. Let us wake up and realize that we are turning into . . . Democrats.

What more incentive do we need, than that?

Thanks again for coming by, and see you next Sunday for our next edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 March 2006 04:00 PM


Very interesting comments all three. In a 'nutshell', the Republicans need to 'grow a set'. Seems like they have castrated themselves. My advice would be stand up like men that Ronald Reagan would be proud of. Don't worry about what everybody 'thinks' and what it 'might take' to get elected again. Stand up for old fashioned Republican values and you WILL be elected again.

President Bush has even whimped out. He is not the cowboy he was after 9/ll. I will continue to support him, but all this 'tolerance' toward Islam is unacceptable. Also not good is his stance on illegal immigration, government spending, Medicare drug plan, .....

And now with Iran I am not seeing a strong stand against their nuclear program. While we sit and 'discuss' the situation, they are getting closer by the day to having the materials for a nuclear bomb. Even Israel is tired of our wimpieness (is that a word?". Sorry, you get the idea.

Right Truth

Posted by: Debbie at March 12, 2006 04:40 PM

The radical way out of the main stream, loud mouthed Libs. seem to draw so much attention and disrupt the important business of our country. The USA giving money to the Palastinians is one decision that bothers me! The Pals. threatened violence if we did not give the financial support??? If that is not terrorism? What is? The President in my opinion has withstood alot during his term. BUT, IF we are really going to go after terrorists then what makes the Pals. the exception? Dubai on the other hand has been a friend??? It all just seems a bit confusing?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at March 13, 2006 11:51 AM