Thursday, September 3, 2009

Limbaugh, Powell, and Chaney: Who is a Real Republican?

Editorial Submission-
May 26, 2009

"In the latest round of the increasingly heated intra-GOP feud, former Secretary of State Colin Powell Sunday defended his Republican credentials and fired back at radio host Rush Limbaugh and former Vice President Dick Cheney, saying the party had to expand beyond its conservative base."

Ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and former Secretary of State Colin Powell called on Republicans Sunday to be more inclusive. In what's become a running battle with conservatives, they suggested the GOP's status as a major party was at stake. Powell also hit back at former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling him "misinformed."


Like the wicked queen in "Snow White" seeking reassurance of her beauty via a talking mirror - most politicians define their image by persistently talking to themselves. In the absence of a magic mirror, voting records and actions offer the best credential check. On that basis, authentic principle driven Republican leaders are about as rare as albino unicorns.

The recent Republican heavy weight dust-up has illuminated political hypocrisy as surely as it has provided opportunity for introspection. All is not as it seems.

A Host of Pretenders

It is interesting to see Dick Chaney challenging the Republican credentials of his peers. His call for the Party to stand for something is sweet music, but he should have played that tune for the eight years he and the President controlled the executive branch of our government. During their tour of duty, this team violated about everything the "R" word stands for - including engaging in expensive foreign entanglements, increasing entitlements, minimizing the Constitution, and expanding government bureaucracy. Real Republicans walk what they talk.

Former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge has taken Chaney to task for daring to suggest that Colin Powell was no longer a Republican. I can understand why Ridge would do that. He made a job of not being real with the Constitution and playing loose with Republican core principles throughout his tenure. Certainly he would identify with those behaviors in others.

Colin Powell is officially still a member of the Republican Party. He may have failed to blow the whistle on our Iraq adventure while there was still time - he may have endorsed the most liberal socialist member of the Senate for the Presidency - he may be calling for Republicans to become more like Democrats to save the Party, but we can all rest easy that he has kept his official Republican secret decoder ring.

Rush Limbaugh continues to take the heat for dismissing the machinations of "moderate" Republicans pushing for a more socially acceptable version of the Republican Party. He is the only guy in the mix who understands the concept of principle over politics, power, popularity, political correctness, pragmatism and all of the "P" words that have kidnapped the Republican Party.

There is a reason Rush has a following and it doesn't have much to do with a charming personality. He stands for something, however imperfect, that is real.

Republican Values are Conservative by Design

Powell and other men of studied virtue are concerned that the party has been kidnapped by its conservative members. If our Party's stated principles mean anything, then those voices are the only ones who are remotely sincere about being real. All the rest are pursuing some camouflaged political effort to abandon values for other priorities.

The recent loss of favor of the Republican Party has little to do with a refusal to make the tent bigger. Over the past eight years the Republican Party power structure constructed a huge tent -- unfortunately filled with hot air. A trend that the Democrats are carrying on with enthusiasm.

Our problems in the Republican Party are the opposite of what Mr. Powell suggests - it is not that we are at risk for standing for something too restrictive; it is that we have failed to stand for much of anything.

I would raise the question about whether those right wing conservatives that everyone is so upset about dominating the Party ever really existed - at least when filtered through our true principles. What we had were Bush, Chaney, Powell, Ridge, Rove, Gingrich, and a host of enthusiastic followers pretending to be conservatives as they played out some form of political game behind a screen of spotty conservative positions.

Who or What?

Comedians Abbot and Costello once did a famously circular routine called, "Who's On First". The Republican Party's struggle for an identity will not be determined by who is on first, but what. If principles do not come first, then the rest is more hot air and political pretense founded on transient personalities.

If we do get real, it is my sense that America's mumbling majority will be delighted to have a political party that is careful with their liberties, values, safety, and resources. After all, that is the stated mission of the Republican Party. We best get on with it and let the pretenders take the headlines. Our job is to stand for something and take back America.

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