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November 20, 2006
What The GOP Leadership Elections Communicate

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, the Republican caucuses in Congress rushed into leadership elections without taking any time to analyze the failures that led them to lose control in both chambers. Instead, they hurriedly reaffirmed their existing leadership, which sent the strange message that they believed themselves on the right track. Even worse, the one change they made sent a message that the GOP would go backwards in their efforts to rebuild trust with the American electorate. In my Washington Examiner column this morning, I reflect on the message that Trent Lott's elevation sends to voters in 2008:

Rather than digest the message and the data from the election, the GOP ran pell-mell to re-elect the same leadership that lost the midterms. John Boehner and Roy Blunt are capable representatives, but they provided the leadership that continued to abuse earmarks for political gain, and ran the Republican House caucus during the period when Abramoff and other lobbyists corrupted the legislative process.

However, that pales in comparison to the action that the Senate GOP caucus took when it elected Trent Lott as minority whip. Lott’s attitude towards pork, and especially his attitude about the people who oppose pork spending, perfectly encapsulates why voters have grown disgusted with Congress and the Republican majority. ...

Lott told an AP reporter that “I’ll just say this about the so-called Porkbusters. I’m getting damn tired of hearing from them.”

Porkbusters are taxpayers, and we have every right to question how our money gets spent. The fact that the question came in response to a $700 million project to relocate rail tracks in Mississippi that we had just spent $300 million repairing makes the point even more clear.

Lott belongs to a generation of politicians that believe that they are above the criticism of their constituents, and that we should just shut up and let our betters decide what to do with us.

Again, one has to wonder why Republicans felt so rushed in selecting their leadership. The various candidates for those positions insisted that they had to hit the ground running in order to get the staffers they needed, and to start playing counter to the Democrats in the opening days of Congress, and so on. But as Hugh Hewitt said during one of those interviews, no organization in the world would make decisions on leadership after a significant setback within ten days, at least not without serious reflection on a new direction and the necessary qualities of new leadership to succeed in that new direction.

And the selection of Trent Lott is the worst of all these decisions. Lott lost his Majority Leader position for waxing nostalgic for Strom Thurmand's Dixiecrat run at the Presidency. He was being nice to an old man, of course, but someone in politics as long as he has been should have known what Thurmond's Dixiecrats represented and how foolish it would be to endorse that in 2002. His ham-handed pork politics represent everything that the 1994 Republicans wanted to change in Washington. Elevating him to leadership tells voters that reform is secondary to power -- the exact wrong message for a party in the minority.

The only thing that's kept the Republicans from completely dissipating their base of support is the foolishness of the Democrats. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on Nancy Pelosi to pull our chestnuts out of the fire for the next two years. The Republicans had better determine what they want to represent, and then rethink the leadership choices that clearly represent business as usual, if they want to return to the majority in 2008 or beyond.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 20, 2006 10:36 AM

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Tracked on November 20, 2006 3:38 PM


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