Having lost control over the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly also the U.S. Senate, Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. They deserved to lose.
For years, Republicans have used libertarian rhetoric in their political campaigns. “We favor freedom, free enterprise, limited government, and responsibility,” Republican candidates have so often proclaimed. “We’re opposed to big government,” they loved telling their constituents.
Recall what Republicans used to tell people during the 1980s, when they controlled the White House but not the Congress: “The only reason we’re not cutting federal spending is because Democratic control of Congress prevents us from doing so. If we only had control over both the executive and legislative branches, we would slash federal spending and abolish departments and agencies.”
People believed them, but it was all a lie from the get-go. The libertarian rhetoric was employed for one — and only one — reason: to deceive people into putting Republicans into power so that they could take control over the federal government and its vast IRS-collected resources and then consolidate their power over the lives and resources of the American people.
The truth, no matter how discomforting Republicans might find it, is that President George W. Bush is nothing more than a variation of Bill Clinton — and a worse one at that. Sharing Clinton’s socialist conviction that the federal government is an agent of morality through its “compassionate” confiscation and redistribution of wealth, Bush has far exceeded Clinton in social-welfare spending. No one can reasonably deny that Bush and his Republican congressmen have been bigger big-government men than Clinton and his Democratic cohorts.
After all, it’s not as if the Republican members of Congress have opposed any of Bush’s big-government actions. Instead, Republicans in Congress have served Bush as loyally and obediently as their rubber-stamp counterparts in the Iraqi congress did for Saddam Hussein.
How many departments were abolished when Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress? How many agencies? How many spending bills were vetoed? How many pork-barrel projects were jettisoned? How much was federal spending reduced?
These people — and their control over the White House and Congress — have been nothing but disasters for this country.
Republicans deserved to lose not only because of the damage their big-government devotion has brought to our nation but also because of the horrible death and destruction they have brought to Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Compared to the hundreds of thousands of people killed and maimed in the president’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, the number of people killed by Bill Clinton’s and Janet Reno’s massacre at Waco pales to relative insignificance.
When President Bush announced his intention to invade Iraq, congressional Republicans hopped to attention, clicked their heels, saluted, and said, “Mr. President, we are here to serve you. Issue your orders and we shall obey.”
Not one peep about the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. Not one peep about the fact that a war of aggression is a war crime under the principles of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Not one peep about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people who would be killed and maimed in the attempt to “get Saddam.” Not one peep about destroying an entire nation. All that mattered was loyally and obediently serving their commander in chief because he was the head of their political party.
When the revelations of torture and sex abuse surfaced, where were the great Republican preachers of morality — those who love looking down their noses at the sins of others while doing nothing to pull the beam out of their own eyes? They just pooh-poohed despicable acts committed by the CIA and the U.S. military — acts of misconduct that more appropriately belonged in a medieval torture chamber or in the seedy outskirts of a U.S. military base. “Just like a fraternity prank,” the great Republican paragons of morality cried. Even worse, they have enabled the Pentagon whitewashes and cover-ups to succeed, not only with their indifference but also with their Pinochet-like grant of immunity from criminal prosecution to the president and his minions in the CIA and the military.
The Republican members of Congress, some of whom carry pocket-sized versions of the Constitution, have stood silently by, year after year, as President Bush set up an international set of secret detention and torture centers, some even located in former Soviet-era torture camps, in a desperate attempt to avoid the constraints of the Constitution.
Even worse, with hardly any discussion or debate and certainly with virtually no input from the public, these Republican “defenders of the Constitution” quickly rubber-stamped the president’s request to let the military hijack our nation’s criminal-justice system, to suspend habeas corpus, to establish kangaroo military tribunals, and to ratify the president’s ludicrous but dangerous designation of American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” in the “war on terrorism,” denying American citizens of due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and other rights and guarantees that stretch back centuries into English jurisprudential history.
Not even bothering to read the so-called USA Patriot Act, the Republican members of Congress rubber-stamped the president’s abuse of search warrants, which would have made even King George III proud. Even worse, they audaciously defended the president’s unlawful monitoring of telephone calls without warrants.
Through it all and as a direct result of Republican control of Congress, the federal government has grown larger, more oppressive, more dangerous, and more threatening as each week has passed. Republicans have gotten away with it by terrifying American grown-ups with horrible fears of an ever-shifting array of bogeymen, such as drug lords, illegal aliens, terrorists, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and communists. “Put your trust in us and support our temporary expansion of power,” Republican congressmen have suggested, echoing their commander in chief, “and we will protect you from the bad guys.”
These people — the Republicans — should be ashamed of themselves because they have greatly shamed and damaged our country. Unfortunately, however, they feel no shame because while they love to preach the concept of individual responsibility to others, never ever do they apply the concept to themselves.
All this is not to say that the Democrats are any better. Their political cowardice and fear of being called “terrorist-loving cowards who hate America” have dissuaded them from opposing consolidation of federal power by the Republicans. But while Republicans and Democrats share the same big-spending, big-government philosophy, there is one big difference between them: Democrats make no bones about being advocates of big spending and big government, while Republicans continue to wrap themselves in libertarian limited-government rhetoric. It is hypocrisy like that which makes the Republican loss a deserving one.
November 8, 2006
Jacob Hornberger [send him mail] is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He will be among the 22 speakers at FFF’s upcoming conference on June 1—4 in Reston, Virginia: u201CRestoring the Constitution: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.u201D