Friday, September 24, 2010

GOP Pledge Is a Step in the Right Direction

GOP Pledge Is a Step in the Right Direction
David Limbaugh
Fri, Sep, 24, 2010

The Republicans' "Pledge to America" is an encouraging step on the road back to recapturing America. It's not enough for Republicans merely to stop Obama's disastrously destructive agenda in its tracks. This pledge is their acknowledgment that they have heard the grass roots, too -- that they are not exempt from scrutiny or accountability merely because they are the anti-Obamas.

Rep. Paul Ryan conceded as much in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos when he said that the Republicans have lost their way in the past and that with this pledge, they are embracing bold steps to get this nation back on track.

That said, Ryan made clear that Republicans are not trying to reinvent the wheel. Rather, he said, "We are here trying to reclaim our country by rededicating ourselves to those timeless principles that made us exceptional." The pledge, he said, contains the basic building blocks to get us back on the right track.

Precisely correct. This is not rocket science. It's a matter of rolling back government, radically reducing spending, ensuring that taxes are not so high that they smother economic growth, repealing and replacing Obamacare, bolstering our national defense and embracing traditional values.

These are not complicated ideas, and they don't need to be. We just want to restore government to its intended role under the Constitution. These timeless principles -- not some gimmicky ideas designed by faux conservatives to appeal to "moderates" -- are what allowed America to be exceptional.

With their pledge, Republicans are reclaiming their commitment to the idea that Americans, unshackled by an oppressive government, are what made America great, not a proactive, intrusive government. This stands in sharp contrast to Obama's Democrats, who can no longer credibly deny they are the party of nearly unlimited government.

The liberal media have exaggerated the level of conservative dissent from the pledge, which has been mild. But one criticism from the right that merits discussion is this: By presenting an affirmative agenda, Republicans are giving Democrats ammunition with which to counterattack them, when they could have simply coasted to victory running against Obama's wildly unpopular agenda.

This is unpersuasive. Don't forget that Republicans were successful in taking back Congress in 1994 not just by running against Bill Clinton, but by presenting the "Contract With America" and signing it with blood.

We must also be mindful of the fact that Democrats have made headway speciously attacking Republicans for being the party of "no," when in fact the GOP has presented proposal after proposal that couldn't even make it out of committee. The pledge, like the contract, covers a wide spectrum of issues and contains enough specific items to be credible, but not so many as to be impracticable.

Obama and the liberal establishment have already played their hand in telegraphing how they will try to attack the pledge. They see it as a gift that they can open to paint Republicans -- amazingly -- as the party of fiscal irresponsibility, as well as an opportunity to ratchet up, once again, their class warfare rhetoric.

Stephanopoulos pressed Ryan to explain how Republicans would "pay" for their two "main proposals" of extending the Bush tax cuts and repealing Obamacare, which he said would cost $4 trillion alone. What is this guy smoking?

In the first place, repealing Obamacare would save trillions, ultimately, and it's time young George quit spewing the long-discredited Democratic talking point that Obamacare is budget-neutral. It's a fiscal disaster, among its many fatal flaws. And as Ryan pointed out, Obama's plan to extend the Bush cuts for all but the top 2 percent of income earners covers some $3 trillion of the $3.7 trillion Democrats are claiming the extension would cost.

More importantly, Republicans shouldn't concede Stephanopoulos' premise, which is rooted in static economic analysis. The Bush tax cuts have not cost revenues and won't in the future. Repealing them would surely suppress growth enough to negate any increased revenues from the higher rates, not to mention the smothering effect they would have on an already depressed economy.

Obama flippantly says that the pledge would just revert Republicans to the policies that "got us into this mess." But seven of Bush's eight years saw healthy economic growth, despite the drains from 9/11, and the subprime Fannie-Freddie nightmare was far more the fault of liberal Democrats than it was of Republicans. But the pledge gets Republicans back on track to not only lower taxes but also drastically reduce spending, a long-omitted, essential part of the equation.

The pledge, notably and admirably, also covers entitlement reform and key national security initiatives and affirms a commitment to traditional social values, all important steps in the right direction.

The pledge will make it easier for voters to see the great differences in their electoral choices in November. Democrats were worried before; they are even more worried now.

The GOP's Ante
Jonah Goldberg
Fri, Sep, 24, 2010

On the political gimmickry scale, the GOP's new "Pledge to America" is worse than some, better than others. Let's say it falls somewhere between the Federalist Papers and a Harry Reid press release -- which, admittedly, pins it down as much as saying you lost a cufflink somewhere between Burkina Faso and Cleveland.

First and foremost it promises to focus on job creation, vowing to stop all scheduled tax hikes (i.e., the expiration of the Bush tax cuts). It offers a steep tax deduction for small businesses and a renewed commitment to curbing business-stifling regulations.

The Pledge also stands athwart the Obama agenda, promising to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care," cancel the unspent portion of the stimulus, and drive a stake through the heart of TARP. The Republicans also promise to "roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels" and disentangle the government from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

That's hardly all of the substance, but the politics are more interesting. Naturally, Democrats attacked the Pledge before they read it as a mean-spirited, irresponsible return to the boneheaded and miserly policies of the Bush years. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn insisted it would "visit a plague on Americans."

Compared to what many Democrats said about the Contract With America, this is a ringing endorsement. Rep. Charlie Rangel said of the 1994 Republican platform: "Hitler wasn't even talking about doing these things." And though that is technically true -- Hitler wasn't talking about term limits for committee chairs or demanding an independent audit of Congress's budget -- the insinuation was a good deal more sinister. Indeed, Rep. Major Owens said that the '94 Republicans were hell-bent on "genocide." Meanwhile, Clyburn's biblical-sounding Republican "plague" might invite worries about locusts or, at worst, the killing of the first-born male child in every household.

On the right, reactions were mostly positive, with a healthy mix of skepticism. "I love it," wrote blogger Michelle Malkin, "provided the words jump off the paper and into reality at some point soon." Erick Erickson of the conservative website Red State stood out for his rage against the whole thing, calling it a "series of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because (they do) not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama."

Meanwhile, others, like Charles Krauthammer, argued that the substance was fine, but it was politically dumb to offer any substance at all. The Democrats are self-destructing like a tape-recording in "Mission: Impossible," why get in the way?

My take: They're all right.

Malkin is absolutely correct that the GOP must prove it is born again on fiscal responsibility. If the Republicans don't prove it, then the Tea Party will swoop in like the Shadow Host of Dunharrow in "The Lord of the Rings" and mow down the Republicans like so many dimwitted orcs.

Krauthammer, I think, is uncharacteristically shortsighted. Politicians not only need mandates, they need to understand what their mandates are. Otherwise they tend to think they were elected for their sheer personal awesomeness. President Obama, somewhat understandably, thought he had a messianic mandate to push a hard partisan agenda from the left. In reality, voters thought his mandate was to be "not Bush" and to then govern from the center. He fulfilled the first part and ignored the second entirely.

It's true that running on something rather than nothing might cost the GOP some campaign victories, but running on nothing would deny them even more policy victories. Sending Republicans back into power without a clear mission is like sending teenagers to Vegas for a school trip without a chaperone. Sure, they'll check out the museums.

As for the argument that the Pledge doesn't go far enough, that's obviously true. But it's also true that the Pledge is far, far more ambitious than the Contract With America was.

Moreover, the fact that it garners support from across the GOP caucus is a good sign, not a bad one, not least because it shows that the GOP can reach out to both the tea parties and to independents. Obama and Pelosi's alienation of independents is destroying the Democratic Party right now. Why should the GOP emulate that strategy?

Conservatives shouldn't look at the Pledge as the sum total of the Republican agenda. They should see it as the opening bid.

To read another article by David Limbaugh, click here.

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