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As Long as We Remember...

December 30, 2004

The Old Guard Sounds The Alarm

Chris Charuhas

Republicans are heir to a great legacy. The Republican Party was the party of Theodore Roosevelt, the man who rode up San Juan Hill against enemy fire, busted corporate trusts, and established the national parks.

It was the party of Dwight Eisenhower, the man who took full responsibility for the possible failure of D-Day and sent in the troops so black kids could go to school. It was, to quote one writer, the party of men "who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities, and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships."

Is it still this sort of party? Many "Old Guard" conservative Republicans don't think so. They think the men now in charge of their party are radical, not conservative, and not to be trusted.

The chairman of Veterans for Bush-Cheney 2000, Gen. Merrill McPeak, declined to endorse the president in this year's election. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, a major player in the president's 2000 campaign, also declined to endorse him this year.

During the campaign, Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute, wrote: "Serious conservatives should deny their votes to (President) Bush. Based on the results of his presidency, a Bush victory would be catastrophic. Conservatives should choose principle over power."

Conservative columnist and 50-year Republican Steve Chapman wrote: "President Bush has made an irresistible case against his own re-election. His first term has been one of the most dismal and costly failures of any presidency. His second promises to be even worse."

Conservative Texas businessman David Bonderman, who backed Mr. Bush in 2000, wrote that "(Bush) is turning out to be the worst president since Millard Fillmore and that's probably an insult to Millard Fillmore."

Many lifelong Republicans abandoned their party's leadership during the 2004 campaign, such as the leader of the "Jersey Girls" 9/11 widows Kristin Breitweiser; Sen. Lincoln Chafee; Reagan official and born-again Christian Clyde Prestowitz; President Eisenhower's son John; Reagan advisor and former Treasury official Bruce Bartlett; former Chairman of Chrysler Lee Iacocca; former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill; former Governor of Virginia A. Linwood Holton; born-again Christian and top Republican fundraiser Karl Schwartz; House International Relations Committee member Doug Bereuter; former Governor of Michigan William Milliken; former Sen. Marlow Cook of Kentucky; and former Governor of Minnesota Elmer Anderson.

These Old Guard Republicans are sounding the alarm because they believe their party's current leadership is betraying its traditional principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government, support for the military, free markets, and respect for the Constitution. Are they correct in their belief?

The evidence supports it.

Fiscal responsibility: The Congressional Budget Office estimated that our national government will spend $477 billion more than it takes in this year. Seventeen cents out of every tax dollar goes to pay interest on our $7 trillion national debt, for which we citizens get nothing in return.

Limited government: Federal spending has increased by 17% since the president took office. The number of full-time employees working on government contracts and grants has increased by more than a million people. Thirty-five percent of this new spending is non-defense.

Support for the military: The president had the Pentagon send Congress an interim budget report that called for rollbacks in combat pay for soldiers. He refused to let reservists get the same health plans active-duty soldiers get, saying it was too expensive. The Secretary of Defense dragged his feet for over a year before trying to supply our troops with adequate armor.

Free markets: The president's farm bill gave $200 billion in subsidies to agribusiness. He supported steel and sugar tariffs that hurt the U.S. auto and candy industries. His biggest campaign donor ran a company that defrauded investors of $60 billion. His administration gave the vice president's old company $1.7 billion in no-bid contracts.

Respect for the Constitution: The president's lawyers wrote he is above the law. He believes he has the right to imprison American citizens for years at a time, without access to a lawyer. He wants to use the Constitution as a tool for social engineering, something traditional conservatives abhor.

The Old Guard of the Republican Party is up in arms and with good reason. Can these principled Republicans take their party back before radicals transform it into something President Eisenhower wouldn't recognize?

A lot of conservatives are hoping that they can.

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