A must-read piece in today’s American Spectator comes from Quin Hillyer, our favorite New Orleans expatriate political journalist, entitled “Thermopylae For Health Care.” Hillyer touches a lot of the same points we hit on last month in expressing disgust with Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s orderly Christmas Eve retreat on health care, but comes about things from a slightly different perspective.
Namely, while we used The Alamo as a metaphor for what we’d like to have seen McConnell stage in defense of the Republic against the ravages of Harry Reid’s healthcare prescription, Hillyer likes King Leonidas’ 300 at the gates of Thermopylae. He also offers a brilliant linkage of McConnell to Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston, whose strategy in defending North Georgia from Sherman’s advancing Union troops was orderly retreat until no ground was left to defend…
What infuriates conservatives is the attitudinal signals the Senate leadership sends. The health care bill is treated as just another piece of legislation — certainly more important than most, as Atlanta was a more important city than most, but not ground to be defended by every available means, to the death, as if a civilization hangs in the balance the way Greek civilization was threatened by the Persians. Yet for millions upon many tens of millions of Americans, the health-care battle is indeed their generation’s domestic version of the Greco-Persian War, and nothing less than a Thermopylae-like stand will be acceptable. These middle-Americans don’t want amendments to the bills. They don’t want to force bill supporters into tough votes that will be used against them in the 2010 fall campaigns. They don’t care about positioning for future battles on other legislative subjects, and they don’t give a flying expletive about maintaining the alleged dignity of the Senate.
What they want is to beat Obamacare: They want to ward off this abomination, this vicious assault on the Constitution and on the free market, this affront to individual liberty in a realm that is intensely and profoundly personal. They want to defeat it, trip it up, smother it, by any and all means within the law. They hate Obamacare. They see a government that already has taken over banks and financial companies and car companies, a government blob that wants to limit the very air we exhale, and they see it now trying to suck in one-sixth of the whole economy in one massive power grab.
And the people say no. They say no at TEA parties. They say no at town hall meetings. They say no at Capitol demonstrations. They say no in emails and faxes and phone calls and letters, and they repeatedly and resoundingly say no in public-opinion polls. They don’t just say no; they shout NO with every breath of carbon dioxide in their lungs. Yet what they see is a Democratic leadership that wants to trample them, and a Republican leadership that defends them by daintily offering some amendments and making some speeches and then changing the subject to the debt limit.
Middle Americans want a Churchillian fight at the beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets, and hills, yet what they see instead is a series of “unanimous consent” agreements interspersed with some really severe tut-tutting. And they see a horrid future of Chuck Schumers — William Sherman-like — laying waste to what they hold dear.
It’s a great piece, and well worth reading. Another good piece comes from the National Review’s Kevin Williamson, who picks up on a line that even GOP chair Michael Steele (stupidly) used – namely, that while this is going to be a big Republican year there is no further indication that those atop the party’s leadership are any smarter or more deserving than they were when the GOP got blown out at the polls in 2006 and 2008. Williamson’s victim isn’t McConnell but House Minority Leader John Boehner, whose Issues page on his web site is a mishmash of tired, rejected and uninspiring policy formulations from 2008. After a bit of grousing about Boehner’s discussion of foreign oil and the necessity of getting off of it, which Williamson thinks is stupid (and makes good points, though it is unquestionable that removing restrictions on domestic energy production so as to create jobs and shrink our trade deficit is smart policy), he delivers this:
What else have Republicans got? The next item on Boehner’s list is: “We will continue to fight for a more democratic, stable, and secure world by preemptively combating terrorism, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and isolating rogue nation states.” No. You. Won’t. Tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan with missions that are increasingly humanitarian in character, having less and less to do with direct questions of American national security, we are not preemptively combating terrorism or nuclear proliferation inside North Korea, Iran, or, to any great extent, Pakistan. At best, we’re in spooks-and-drones mode, not boots-on-the-ground. (And that’s probably a good thing.) As for “democratic, stable, and secure” — one of these things is not like the others, at least not necessarily. There is good reason to suspect that a much more robustly democratic Iraq or Pakistan would be as much a source of instability and insecurity as the opposite. Our efforts against nuclear proliferation are not only ineffectual, they are, arguably, counterproductive: One of George W. Bush’s great diplomatic successes was abetting the proliferation of nuclear weapons in India, which is now firmly ensconced in the atomic elite, providing a nice counterbalance to China. So none of this political boilerplate is rooted in reality. The Stupid Party rides again.
So, what’s the rest of the agenda, in the Gospel According to Boehner? Support the troops, take care of veterans, and lock up child molesters. Really. I’m guessing the Democrats are not going to run on a hate-the-troops, hose-the-veterans, molest-the-children platform. Perhaps the Republicans can develop a wedge on the hot-button issues of mom and apple pie.
Substantially correct. Williamson says later that while there is a wealth of conservative policy thinking out there, it’s clear the top of the party is slow to pick up on it. As a result they’re not reaching the people they’ll need in order to build governing coalitions – which is why the GOP is being rejected in the polls the same way the Democrats increasingly are.
In other words, Hillyer and Williamson are calling for the same thing Erick Erickson and the gang at Redstate.com are calling for – which is the same thing the people at Free Republic, Human Events, the rest of the conservative blogosphere and the talk radio community are calling for. We all want to see an all-out fight from the GOP this year. The wind is at their backs, the public is behind them and the stakes are very high. They’re going to win seats in 2010; the question is how many. But the GOP will not get control of the House or Senate – it is within the realm of possibility to get both this fall, despite Steele’s stupid prognostication to the contrary on Monday – unless it shows the kind of energy and determination worthy of leadership.
Let’s have a lot more Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint, and a lot less Mitch McConnell. There is nothing wrong with being obstructionist, particularly when the American people hate what’s being obstructed.