Make your own free website on Tripod.com
ModerateRepublican.net
Commentary-November 2003
Home
Commentaries-November 2004
Commentaries-August 2004
Just What is a Moderate Republican?
Archives
Meet the Staff
Important Links
Contact Us

Grabbing the Sterring Wheel from the Back Seat
By Mark Kittel

A few weeks ago, the Albany Times-Union ran a letter from a man in West Sand Lake, New York, in which the reader defended and shared Lt. General William Boykins view that the United States, a Christian nation, is engaged in a war against Islam. Like the general, he views our war in Iraq as a war of Christianity against Satan. This man assured other readers that the Bush administration is in complete agreement with Boykin, but just doesnt have the generals intestinal fortitude to openly express the same views.

He's right, but only to a certain extent. Although it took several days to say it, Bush eventually did issue a statement to the effect that he does not share the generals views about the war. This is a statement, however, that Bush was required to make, because not saying this would contradict every one of his earlier assurances that we are not engaged in a war on Islam, but a war on terrorism. The statement was issued quietly and without much coverage, and as such did little to stir up the Fundamentalist, Christian Right, the most powerful and most influential voice in the Republican Party today. On the other hand, this is the same Bush that last week appeared at a Christian convention in Dallas with banners behind him reading "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords", the same president who reportedly told former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that God spoke to him and told him to strike al-Qaeda and Iraq. Statements and appearances like this more than convince the fundamentalist zealots in our nation that Bush really does share their views and their agenda. It's important for Bush to continue pleasing and appeasing the fundamentalist Christian faction of the Republican party, because this is the one group that strategist Karl Rove believes to be the key to securing Bush's stint at the White House for another four years. Although this faction represents a minority of the Republican Party, it is driving the party's and the presidents agendas and is driving the rest of us into irrelevance. Not to mention that if men like Boykin have their way, it will drive our nation into disastrous wars that the Christians hope and faithfully believe will be the trigger for the return of Christ and the onset of the Rapture.

In the short-term, there is very little that can be done about the popularity and growing ranks of fundamentalist churches. Their formula of boiling the Bible and two-thousand years of theology down to the level of a bumper sticker is appealing to the many people across the country who would rather not have to put any more thought into their faith than they would into, say, a Fruit Loops commercial. Because of this appeal, fundamentalist churches will continue to rake in the money needed to support candidates that they feel are at least sympathetic to (and at worst completely in line with) the conservative Christian agenda, and they will continue to cast their votes as a unified bloc for such candidates. Trying to persuade them to defect is futile. The best we can do is pull the teeth from this serpent and reassert our control over the direction of the Republican Party, and theoretically over the numerous wrong directions our country has taken over the past two years.

In principle, this is a relatively simple task, because it involves nothing more than using the exact same tactic that the fundamentalists have used over the past several elections. It is really a very simple, elegant bit of twisted political logic that keeps the fundamentalists at the top of the power ladder. They are willing to abandon any candidate that does not at least tacitly approve of their agenda, and this open threat of disloyalty forces many candidates to coddle and cater to the extreme Christian right in order to win their votes. I know Id like to think that loyalty and unswerving fealty would be rewarded with the highest levels of political clout, but politics does not reward loyalty. In fact, loyalty is what renders so many political factions powerless. If Karl Rove knows that moderate Republicans will vote for Bush simply because he is a Republican, and will not vote for other candidates because they are not Republicans, then Karl Rove also knows that Bush doesn't have to do anything to win their votes; those votes are already in his pocket. If Bush knows that Log Cabin Republicans will vote for him simply because he is a Republican, then Bush has no incentive to pay attention to the Log Cabin agenda and goals. The proof of this should be obvious; the proof is in everything that the administration has done over the past three years in power. This administration has bent over backwards to please disloyal factions, especially the fundamentalist neo-conservative Christians, because these factions are more than willing to drop their support of any Republican candidate that does not share their agenda in favor of a candidate that will support that agenda, even if such a candidate hasn't a prayer of winning.

The fundamentalist plan is much more far-sighted than you might think. Most factions within the party are willing to set the goal of "Get a Republican" into office, and leave it at that, hoping that the mere fact that a senator or the president is a Republican will bring good results to the country. The fundamentalists have a much more powerful agenda: Get a conservative Christian into office, get conservative Christians into every possible political office, in order to promote a conservative Christian agenda. Fundamentalists dont vote for a Republican simply because he or she is Republican, and then hope for the best. They punish Republicans that don't agree with them by refusing to support them, hoping that the next candidate that comes along will have learned this lesson: Get with the fundamentalist program, or risk losing the election.

As frightening as it might be to contemplate, this is what other factions in the party will have to do in order to regain control of the party. We must set the goal of putting not merely Republicans into office, but people that support fiscal responsibility, international cooperation, and put the good of our nation ahead of politics. We have to be willing to abandon a candidate or a president that does not share our agenda, that does not openly support our views and our philosophies, and be willing to support other candidates that are willing to get with our program even if that means supporting candidates from other political parties. We have to be vocal about our disloyalty and open with our discontent, just as the fundamentalists are. And, like the fundamentalists, we have to be willing to lose.

Such tactics are likely to cost Republicans control of Senate seats, of congressional districts, perhaps even of the presidency, as unlikely as that still seems. But if we are willing to follow such a course and can stomach the pain it may cause in the short-term, the long-term returns will be worth it. For every seat lost, for every office surrendered, for every defeat that Republicans suffer, there will be a new candidate hungry to take back that office in the next election. Like every other politician, they will have campaign managers analyzing the past elections data, looking for those groups that abandoned the party in the previous election. Those will be the groups that the candidates listen to, the factions that the politicians will woo in order to gain their favor, the people that will gain control of the party. Let's make that's us the next time around.

Mark Kittel is a contributing writer to ModerateRepublican. He lives in upstate New York.

A Quiet First Step....
 By  Micahel Cudahy

 

 

A Quiet First Step...... It was a hot, humid Friday afternoon in July of 1973. Alexander Butterfield was a nobody. He was being interviewed by three members of the Senate Watergate Committee. Most of the members of the committee were not even in the room. Everyone else was on their way out of Washington in search of some place cool to spend the weekend.

Then Butterfield casually remarked about the recording system in the Oval Office at the White House. It was testimony that changed the direction of the committees investigation. It was evidence that forced the first American president in our history to resign.

History works like that sometimes -- quietly -- often unnoticed.

Not every event is as monumental as Alexander Butterfields revelations about Richard Nixon's secret White House taping system, but many are worth observing.

For moderate Republicans concerned about the calculated takeover of their party by elements of its neo-conservative right wing, something quite significant happened a few weeks ago. It was announced that former President George H.W. Bush intended to give his most treasured award -- the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, to Senator Edward M. Kennedy the senior Democratic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts on November 7th. Praising the senator as a man who consistently and courageously fought for his principles, a spokesman for the Bush Foundation described Kennedy as an inspiration to all Americans.

Some might suggest that this action was odd, but not completely impossible to understand given the senators long history of public service to the United States. But what makes this particular event so remarkable is that the announcement of the award came after Senator Kennedy fiercely berated the former presidents son, President George W. Bush, for his foreign policy misadventures in Iraq. One unhappy Texas conservative wrote a local newspaper and said that, for the Bush Foundation to present the award to the socialist U.S. Senator from Massachusetts was unthinkable. Another suggested that for, conservatives and freedom loving Texans to sit quietly, out of respect for former President Bush was a travesty, and that in their opinion it was, time for all good Americans to demonstrate against such an embarrassing and misguided decision.

Many observers of Republican political trends know that G.W. is not exactly cut from the same traditional bolt of Republican cloth as his more moderate father. A stubborn and adventuresome unilateralist, the current president appears to believe that there is his way or the highway. Many would argue that his new breed of Republicanism represents an effort to permanently move the Republican party away from its roots. Away from the foundation so classically represented by the patient, multinational diplomacy of his father. Over the last 18 months, many members of former President Bushs administration have eloquently spoken out in an effort to redirect international and military policies that threaten Americas credibility in the world community. Quietly at first, and then in increasingly visible public forums. Retired General Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that,

"The central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake; we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence."

By ignoring the experienced counsel of such distinguished advisors as General Scowcroft, our current president has embraced the philosophy of the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party that has historically rejected international coalitions, and ridiculed a global community interested in being of assistance to the United States. Further, our president has embarked in this radical new direction flaunting his bad manners almost as if they were a virtue. The result is a clear, and almost deliberate, confrontation of styles between father and son. An encounter that has not only had a degenerative effect on Americas reputation as a respected and equitable world power, but is also demonstrating to American voters the speciousness of the neo-conservative domestic program.

The question that traditional Republicans must now ask themselves is whether their party has finally gone too far. At what point does party loyalty undermine the great traditions of respected party leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush?

If the party has reached a point where its members feel it is appropriate to characterize the honorable, bipartisan actions of an esteemed former president as a travesty, and an embarrassing and misguided decision, then perhaps the time has come for traditional Republicans to stand up and invite those who would disrespect former President Bush to leave. Moderate Republicans can no longer stand passively mute while destructive elements within their party repudiate a century's worth of domestic and foreign policy achievements. A creeping paralysis and uncertainty has weakened the respected voices of the Republican center. The result has been a rise to power of disturbing party leaders like Tom Delay and Grover Norquist. It is my hope that the quiet and nuanced actions of former President Bush represent the beginning of a process that will motivate traditional Republicans to work together to make their voices heard. A process that will allow them to take their party back.

Michael Cudahy's Republican political management and press relations responsibilities have ranged from the 1980 Reagan/Bush mid-western presidential effort, to the 1980 George Bush for President campaign, as well as the Andrew H. Card, Jr. gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts. He also worked as National Communications Director for the Republican Coalition for Choice. He writes regularly on political and social policy issues.

Green Republicans?
By Jim Depeso

Republicans for environmental protection? To some, that may sound like an oxymoron.

But history shows that America's original conservationists were Republicans. Our party has played a strong role in protecting America the Beautiful and conserving resources for future generations. The vast majority of Americans, regardless of their party affiliation, want air and water kept clean and healthy, and special places protected.

Lately, some of our party's leaders have gotten crosswise on environmental protection, viewing it as a "Democrat issue" and seeing conservation measures as big government liberalism. Today, environmental issues are needlessly polarized along partisan lines.

REP America, the national grassroots organization of Republicans for environmental protection, hopes to change that. REP was founded in 1995 to resurrect the Republican Party's great conservation tradition and restore conservation and environmental protection as fundamental elements of the party's vision for America.

We are Republicans who share a deep concern for the environment. Our health, quality of life, and America's natural heritage depend on taking good care of the air, water, and land. A healthy environment and a sound economy go together hand in hand. Conservation of our natural resources is critical to keeping our nation strong, secure, and prosperous. We expect our elected leaders to act responsibly and conservatively, look out for our interests and the interests of future generations, and protect the land we love.

Today, REP America has members in 49 states and the District of Columbia. We're small but punching above our weight in national politics.

In 2002 and this year, we played an important role in persuading Congress to keep oil drilling out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the biggest and wildest land in the system of national wildlife refuges established 100 years ago by Theodore Roosevelt.

Days after September 11, we started campaigning for a New Manhattan Project to reduce our dangerous dependence on Middle Eastern oil, through greater efficiency and diversifying our energy resources. Now, everyone is talking about the need for a New Manhattan Project.

We lent a bipartisan tone to a broad, popular movement fighting to protect our last wild forests. We have been part of campaigns to add new wilderness areas and protect our national parks.

Our voice is heard nationwide. Our opinion pieces have been published in major daily newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, Detroit News, Miami Herald, Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, and the New York Times.

Our friends in Congress -- true conservatives such as Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert and Nancy Johnson, Senators John McCain and Peter Fitzgerald, know us and appreciate our support for their fight for strong, practical environmental legislation.

Many wonder how Republicans can be concerned about the environment. Many ask why we don't become Democrats.

The truth is that there's a long and honorable history of Republican conservation achievements. We point with pride to the great GOP leaders of the past who fought to save natural treasures, signed landmark environmental-protection laws, and established many of the policies we take for granted today.

Abraham Lincoln signed a law in 1864 protecting Yosemite. Theodore Roosevelt reserved 150 national forests to protect their trees, water, and wildlife for future generations. He established 18 national monuments protecting breathtaking scenic lands, including the Grand Canyon. He created our unmatched system of national wildlife refuges, which today numbers more than 500 areas covering more than 90 million acres. He doubled the number of national parks. TR spoke up forcefully for conservation as a national imperative and a patriotic duty.

While TR set the conservation gold standard, he was not the only Republican to distinguish himself in this area. Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover established large national monuments protecting special places, such as Glacier Bay, Death Valley, and White Sands. Dwight D. Eisenhower protected what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Barry Goldwater was a lifelong conservationist who fought for his beloved Grand Canyon. Richard Nixon campaigned successfully to enact laws that have cleaned up air and water, eliminated deadly toxins from commerce, protected endangered species, and expanded wilderness areas.

Republican governors -- Dan Evans in Washington, Tom McCall in Oregon, Bill Milliken in Michigan, Warren Knowles in Wisconsin, Percival Baxter in Maine, Deane C. Davis in Vermont, David Cargo in New Mexico -- took strong actions to protect their states' natural resources in years past.

Nothing is more conservative than conservation. Protecting the environment harkens back to venerable, traditional conservative values -- prudence, thrift, stewardship, saving for the future, and patriotic pride in our nation's natural beauty.

Good stewardship is both moral and practical. The environment is a natural endowment that pays dividends in the form of essential services -- clean water, flood control, topsoil formation, crop pollination, and moderate temperatures. These services are indispensable and cannot be replaced by artificial substitutes at any price.
 
We must manage our natural endowment like conservative investors so it continues to pay dividends long into the future.

Our national parks, forests, monuments, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas are priceless heirlooms that define our character and unite us in our love of country. Patriotism encompasses the land that sustains our nation, yielding food, fiber, water, energy, inspiration and a tangible link to our history.
Defending the land-its health, its productivity, and its beauty -is demonstration of love for one's nation.

America's culture was shaped by the wilderness experience of our forefathers. Who could look at the vastness of the Grand Canyon or the quiet beauty of the Everglades and not feel proud that the American people had the wisdom and foresight to protect them? Like the monuments in our nation's capital and the battlefields of the Revolution, those wild areas are enduring symbols of our country.

As Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910, "Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of ensuring the safety and continuance of the nation."

Yet in this day and age the notion of conservation as a conservative issue strikes many as odd. The conservation achievements of Republicans in decades past often seem like a trip down memory lane. Young people today often are surprised to hear about Richard Nixon's environmental leadership. Dan Evans and Bill Milliken have been retired governors for many years. Theodore Roosevelt is a colorful, somewhat eccentric figure from a world long vanished.

The political parties today are far more polarized than they were a generation ago. Radio and TV pundits divide us more than they inform us with misleading sound bites about jobs vs. owls or fish vs. farmers.

There are several reasons why the GOP seems to have fallen away from its conservation traditions. The popular environmental movement has changed in ways that conservatives find alienating - too countercultural, too tied to the Democrats. The GOP leadership has been bewitched by a new breed of hard-edged, think-tank ideologues espousing a bizarre philosophy that is hostile to environmental protection and is best described as a weird mix of reactionary populism and crony capitalism. Most seriously, though, is that special interest money has flooded our political system and threatens to drown our democracy.

But Richard Nixon and Dan Evans knew that environmental protection is a mainstream issue that enjoys broad support from most Americans. And that's still true today.

America has come a long way, thanks to the actions of past leaders. The air is cleaner, thanks to pollution controls on motor vehicles, factories, and power plants. No longer are wastes and poisons widely dumped into rivers and lakes with impunity. More than 100 million acres of public lands are protected as federally designated wilderness, the highest protection available. 

Yet today, with our population approaching 300 million, pressures on the environment are increasingly complex.

Public lands are under growing pressure from urban sprawl, air pollution, motorized recreation, and invasive species. Forests and farmlands are being lost to pavement and congestion.

Water supplies are threatened by diffuse sources of pollution that are difficult to get a handle on, such as urban runoff. Demand for clean water is depleting aquifers and rivers. Worldwide, there is growing demand for energy, which means more fossil fuels that release more pollution and more greenhouse gases altering our climate and creating serious risks for our future.

We have spread novel industrial toxins that persist in the environment and in our bodies, upsetting the most fundamental processes of nature at the molecular level.

These issues aren't just problems for the environment. They're problems for business, for communities, and for families.

Republicans who understand and care about these issues are in a unique position to press for progress on these serious issues. Our special identity as conservative conservationists will broaden the constituency for practical, businesslike answers to these problems. We need to support and vote for Republican elected officials and candidates who share our values and will work constructively to implement good solutions. We mustn't fall into the trap of buying into false dichotomies like "the economy vs. the environment." It's not either-or. It's both-and.

For example, wind energy facilities are popping up from across the country, in California, Washington, Minnesota, Texas, and other states. Thousands of turbines are turning out pollution-free energy. Renewable energy will bring America greater security, new economic opportunities, and a new, predictable source of income to support rural communities and preserve rural culture.

Global investment in clean energy technology will approach $3.5 trillion between now and 2020. There is money to be made protecting the air, water, and climate by building wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells, ethanol refineries, geothermal facilities, and wave energy power plants. Our president and Congress must provide the leadership that will help American companies take advantage of these opportunities and win their fair share of the business.

Another opportunity is our great natural heritage of public lands. Our national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and conservation areas are places that people cherish. They are magnets that draw new blood, new jobs, and new investment to rural communities and small cities. We need more protected lands for a growing nation -- more parks, more wildlife refuges, more conservation areas, more wilderness areas.

Our national forests, the legacy of TR, have not been treated well. They need an investment in restoration that will yield lasting value from what we leave behind, not the easy-come, easy-go dollars of extraction, liquidation, and depletion. Remember the cardinal rule of managing investments -- you don't spend down the principal.

We must hire local people to get rid of unneeded, costly forest roads that pollute streams, clear out invasive weeds that obliterate native vegetation, remove brush that fuels destructive wildfires, and restore our lost wildlife heritage of bears, wolves, and salmon.

We must close down the federal chow line that subsidizes poor management of our public lands. We must protect our last wild forests, roadless areas that give us clean drinking water, clean air, fish, birds, and bears, and a back-to-basics refuge from the rush-rush craziness of our 24-7 world of demanding phones, perpetual traffic, and remorseless deadlines.

Developing clean energy, restoring forests, and protecting air and water are much more than economic opportunities for us. They are legacies for the future. Every generation has an obligation to leave a better world for its descendants. What Theodore Roosevelt did for the 20th century, we must do for the 21st.

We must remember there is one important constituency that has no vote and no representation in Congress. Yet that constituency, unseen and unheard today, will judge the quality of our decisions and the value of what we accomplish in our lifetimes. That constituency is the future-our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors in time. We must answer the demands of conscience to leave them a healthy, livable world.

If you are a conservation-minded Republican, we invite you to join REP America and help us "green up" the GOP.

Help us fight to save our natural resources and our party's tradition of environmental stewardship. Call your member of Congress and let him or her know that you're another Republican for environmental protection.

Check out the resources on our web site at www.rep.org. Tell your friends and family about REP. Meet with your decision-makers or send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

It won't be a politician in some faraway office who brings the Republican Party back to its conservation roots. It will be the person who looks back at you in the mirror.

Jim Depeso is Policy Director for REP America.

Enter supporting content here