The Wall Street Journal is saying that it’s time to dump the Abramhoff Republicans:
What’s notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled “conservatives,” who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won’t surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.
And indeed, this sort of thing will hurt Congressional Republicans – and it’s hard to argue that it shouldn’t. The GOP swept into power in 1994 on a promise that they would finally clean up government – and since then the GOP’s become every bit as rapacious as the Democrats, and every bit as corrupt and insular. The Democrats say that government can do all, and are wrong. The Republicans say that government is corrupt, inefficient, and blundering – and when they’re elected they seem to prove it.
It’s clear that there’s a complete lack of leadership on Capitol Hill these days. The DeLay era needs to come to a swift end – even National Review is saying that DeLay should not run as Majority Leader again – and the Republicans need to return to the values of the 1994 Republican Revolution. Small government isn’t just a line, it’s a philosophy that’s central to conservative political thought – and some Republican members of Congress seem to treat it as the former rather than the latter.
Not everyone who received donations from Abramoff are guilty of anything, and the Abramoff scandal is likely to be a bipartisan one. However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, conservatives expect more from their leaders, and many of them may simply stay home this November unless Congress cleans up its act.
They also note:
One danger now is that, rather than change their own behavior, Republicans will think they can hide behind the political cover of “lobbying reform.” While this has various guises, most proposals amount to putting further restrictions not on Congress but on “the right of the people . . . to petition the government,” as the Constitution puts it explicitly.
Lobbyists per se aren’t the problem; most of them are hired to protect Americans from a federal government that wants to take more of their money or freedom. Mr. Abramoff could make so much hay with Indian tribes only because he and they knew that Congress had given Washington the power to make or break fortunes simply by rediscovering “lost” tribes and giving them the power to sponsor casino gambling. The root of the scandal is this Beltway discretion and its misuse, not the lobbyists who attempt to protect their own interests.
The proliferation of lobbyists isn’t necessarily a good thing, but the way to deal with that isn’t to limit the power of groups and associations, but to limit the power of government. It is impossible for one person to read the entire 80,000+ page Federal Register, despite the fact that those laws effect all of us. The federal government has its grubby little hands in everything, and combine massive power with little accountability or responsibility and you get disaster.
The GOP used to be the party that stood back and said “enough is enough” to the massive growth in federal spending and the inherent reductions in personal freedom, economic opportunity, and general liberty that were its consequences. It’s time for the GOP to have a leadership that still puts that understanding above all else.
UPDATE: Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is calling for DeLay to permanently step down from his leadership post. It takes a written letter signed by 50 Republicans to force a new elections, and before it seemed unlikely that 50 House Republicans would be willing to publicly stand against DeLay – but with the Abramoff fiasco, that now seems likely. Kline’s an honorable man, and he deserves credit for standing up for doing what’s right for his party and most importantly his country.