Time for some GOP back­bone and lead­er­ship

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - David Lim­baugh

This latest “tor­ture” flap con­cern­ing Judge Michael Mukasey’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral nom­i­na­tion raises an im­por­tant ques­tion. Why do Repub­li­cans al­ways let lib­er­als co-opt the moral high ground and back them into a cor­ner where their only es­cape is to prove they are as “com­pas­sion­ate” as lib­er­als?

If Repub­li­cans are se­ri­ous about reestab­lish­ing them­selves as the dom­i­nant party, they should re­cap­ture their moral courage and start de­fend­ing prin­ci­ples they claim to be­lieve in.

The Repub­li­cans’ timid­ity shows up on a wide ar­ray of is­sues, from So­cial Se­cu­rity to tor­ture, where they’re on the de­fen­sive and apolo­getic, and they al­low the lib­er­als’ re­vi­sion­ist “facts” to be­come “con­ven­tional wis­dom.”

Repub­li­cans should have owned the So­cial Se­cu­rity is­sue. Pres­i­dent Bush is the only po­lit­i­cal leader in mod­ern his­tory to take on the “third rail of pol­i­tics” af­ter years of both par­ties warn­ing about its im­mi­nent in­sol­vency.

In­stead, Democrats stole the nar­ra­tive as quickly as you can say “dem­a­gogue” and scared se­niors into be­liev­ing Mr. Bush was try­ing to de­stroy the sys­tem.

It’s been even worse with the tax is­sue. Never mind that Mr. Bush’s tax cuts were skewed slightly in fa­vor of lower- and mid­dle-in­come earn­ers and that fol­low­ing the cuts, the top 1 per­cent of in­come earn­ers pay more than 39 per­cent of fed­eral in­come taxes, the top 5 per­cent pay 60 per­cent and the top half pay 97 per­cent. Never mind that the cuts stim­u­lated eco­nomic growth, in­creased fed­eral rev­enues and greatly re­duced the deficit. The con­ven­tional wis­dom is nev­er­the­less that the cuts were only for the wealthy and are bankrupt­ing the gov­ern­ment.

Ditto for en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. Repub­li­cans are com­pet­ing shame­lessly for in­clu­sion in the “In­con­ve­nient Truth Club,” du­ti­fully recit­ing the pass­words, “man-made global warm­ing is de­stroy­ing Mother Earth.”

For­get that much of the so­called science is highly de­bat­able, that the data it re­lies on is some­times fraud­u­lent and that “con­sen­sus” is an un­sci­en­tific way to es­tab­lish sci­en­tific the­o­ries. What ap­par­ently mat­ters to th­ese green-with-envy Repub­li­cans is that the com­pas­sion train does not leave them at the sta­tion.

But the most re­cent ex­am­ple of Repub­li­can feck­less­ness is the tor­ture is­sue. Here, Repub­li­cans should seize the moral high ground and put Democrats on the de­fen­sive.

We are, af­ter all, at war. We ought to be fo­cused on how to win the war and for­tify our na­tional se­cu­rity. But Democrats can’t shake their ob­ses­sion with find­ing fault with how we are con­duct­ing this war and how cruel we are al­legedly be­ing to the en­emy.

They painted a few in­stances of pris­oner mis­treat­ment at Abu Ghraib as sys­tem­atic tor­ture at the hands of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, though they were unau­tho­rized and against ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy. The main­stream me­dia re­peated the Demo­cratic nar­ra­tive so pas­sion­ately and so of­ten that it has be­come “con­ven- tional wis­dom,” as well.

Why didn’t Repub­li­cans in­dig­nantly chal­lenge the as­ser­tion that un­der­wear on en­emy heads at the hands of rene­gade sol­diers con­sti­tuted tor­ture — au­tho­rized by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, no less? Words mat­ter, es­pe­cially in a war for “hearts and minds.” Were Repub­li­cans that fuzzy about the def­i­ni­tion of “tor­ture”? Or were they afraid to risk be­ing de­picted as de­fend­ers of tor­ture — even though, in the process, they al­lowed their en­tire party to be sad­dled with that bag­gage?

How about Guan­tanamo prison? With some ad­mirable ex­cep­tions, Repub­li­cans have per­mit­ted Democrats to adopt the al-Qaeda spin that we rou­tinely abuse pris­on­ers there. Even when the truth emerged that alQaeda was play­ing the De­moc- rats and the main­stream me­dia for “use­ful id­iots” in their pro­pa­ganda push against the prison, Repub­li­cans al­lowed Democrats to es­cape ac­count­abil­ity for their dis­tor­tions. Sadly, even Mr. Bush has as­sured us he wants to close down Gitmo. Why are Repub­li­cans afraid of fight­ing back with the truth, which hap­pens to be on their side?

Now Democrats are threat­en­ing not to con­firm at­tor­ney-gen­eral nom­i­nee Mukasey over wa­ter­board­ing and are cas­ti­gat­ing him for re­fus­ing to con­cede it is tor­ture when that is far from clear and he shouldn’t be tak­ing a po­si­tion on it any­way.

Where are the coura­geous Repub­li­cans to shame Democrats for car­ry­ing al-Qaeda’s wa­ter? They could point out that it is prob­a­bly not tor­ture and that it has rarely been used, and that when it has been used, it has ac­tu­ally worked and per­haps saved lives, con­trary to lib­eral pro­pa­ganda that it hasn’t.

With all of th­ese war-re­lated is­sues, from ter­ror­ist sur­veil­lance to Gitmo to tough in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques, Repub­li­cans could do a much bet­ter job demon­strat­ing that Democrats are on the wrong side — lit­er­ally — and are do­ing far more to harm our na­tional im­age with their lies against the ad­min­is­tra­tion than they claim Bush is do­ing with his poli­cies.

Repub­li­cans would have more suc­cess con­vinc­ing vot­ers of the “right­ness” of their poli­cies if they started act­ing like they be­lieve in them them­selves.

David Lim­baugh, the brother of talk ra­dio host Rush Lim­baugh, is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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