Green Room

Bennett vs. Beck

posted at 1:55 pm on February 21, 2010 by

Bill Bennett was not a fan of Glenn Beck’s speech at CPAC last night. He has three criticisms — all worthy of discussion — but the second one is probably the most important:

[F]or him to continue to say that he does not hear the Republican party admit its failings or problems is to ignore some of the loudest and brightest lights in the party. From Jim DeMint to Tom Coburn to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan, any number of Republicans have admitted the excesses of the party and done constructive and serious work to correct them and find and promote solutions. Even John McCain has said again and again that “the Republican party lost its way.” These leaders, and many others, have been offering real proposals, not ill-informed muttering diatribes that can’t distinguish between conservative and liberal, free enterprise and controlled markets, or night and day. Does Glenn truly believe there is no difference between a Tom Coburn, for example, and a Harry Reid or a Charles Schumer or a Barbara Boxer? Between a Paul Ryan or Michele Bachmann and a Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank?

***

To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country’s recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting. The stakes are too important to go through that kind of exercise, which will ultimately go nowhere anyway — because it’s already happened.

I doubt Beck would deny that there is a difference between Michelle Bachman and Barney Frank. However, the Congressional Republican party’s record on spending and growing government during the G. W. Bush administration looks good only by comparison to the Obama administration’s plans. So Bennett ought to forgive those who are skeptical of the GOP’s current contrition. The party has not been led by the Coburns, Bachmans or Ryans.

On the other hand, Beck should acknowledge that it is not clear that the GOP would fare better if it took a couple of electoral victories as a mandate to implement a Tea Party agenda, either. Buried in a Pew poll (on science, of all things) from last summer (starting on pp. 15 of the questionnaire), you will find an overwhelming disinclination to cut spending on most any part of the federal budget. Only 2% support cuts in Social Security. Only 18% support cuts in the military (small comfort for most Republicans). Only 15% support cutting unemployment (and that number is likely lower today). Only 6% support cutting Medicare. Only 10% support cutting Medicaid and other HHS spending. Those categories make up over 75% of the federal budget. And in most categories, the number who want increased spending exceeds those who want cuts.

Of course, Republicans would be more prone to propose freezes, or reductions in the rate of growth for various programs. However, anyone who saw the Republican Congress get derailed in over the government shutdown in 1995 knows how the establishment media will play it. Indeed, these days, Democrats are looking to turn Rep. Ryan’s “roadmap” into a budget for similar reasons. Should Republicans regain power over the next couple of elections, they will face the same temptation of over-reading their mandate that they faced in 1995 — and the Democrats have faced this year. Shrinking the size and influence of the State requires an ongoing effort to educate the public before a fiscal crisis forces truly painful choices on everyone. That will take the efforts of all of the Bennetts and Becks we can find.

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Shrinking the size and influence of the State requires an ongoing effort to educate the public before a fiscal crisis forces truly painful choices on everyone.

Too late, in one sense. Crisis has arrived. But the argument for shrinking “the size and infuence of the state” is not merely a pecuniary one: it is based on freedom, economic and otherwise. The GOP has utterly failed to sustain this jointly noble and material argument over the years and by now seems nearly illiterate on the subject, and is thereby reduced to the fiscal harangue, which is unflattering and cheapens conservatism. Beck’s longing I believe is for a return to the noble and practical argument for economic freedom, and his case against the establishment GOP resonates with the huge masses of equally frustrated Americans. The establishment figure Bennett is reflexively hostile to such populism. I see his points. But he should understand that a handful of putative reformists within the GOP is not going to meliorate the hardcore distrust, frustration and anger of millions of Americans contemptuously and serially betrayed by the Republican party. But Beck must do his part to find a way to steer this energy toward reforming the GOP, not splintering it.

rrpjr on February 21, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Does Glenn truly believe there is no difference between a Tom Coburn, for example, and a Harry Reid or a Charles Schumer or a Barbara Boxer?

Well, Schumer has better hair. Other than that….

percysunshine on February 21, 2010 at 2:28 PM

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Allahpundit on February 21, 2010 at 2:29 PM

So Bennett ought to forgive those who are skeptical of the GOP’s current contrition. The party has not been led by the Coburns, Bachmans or Ryans.

Indeed! Where was the party when the Senate decided to force Coburn to chose between office and practice? They didn’t want him shaping his political views by his practical experience as a practicing doctor.

Where was the party leadership when Bachman helped give voice and venue to the issues that became the Tea Party and when she fought spending like drunken sailors?

Where IS the party leadership on Ryan’s drive to make Americans realize that our spending and entitlements are unsustainable. That we need to face it head on realistically?

Where were they when Dubya half-heartedly tried to reform SS?

Where were they on SCHIPS, on earmarks, on ethics (Craig/Vitter), on TARP and so on.

As Beck says, they have not had that “Come to Jesus moment” that what’s wrong is not “spending” less than the Dems, but that they have totally fallen away from the Constitution.

Methinks Czar Bennett is of a feather with Gingrich, McVain, Boehner, Voinovich, Grahamnesty and the rest of the dem-lite progressives.

As far as I’m concerned, Bennet needs to shut up and sit in the corner, he’s part of the problem, not the solution for teapartiers.

AH_C on February 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Karl,

If you look at the 2002 through 2006 actual spending where the Republicans had nominal control over the spending agenda the data is 1.35 trillion in 5 years is deficit spending under Bush. However in 2007 – 2009 The Democrats using the war has hostage to a Republican admin – before the bailout ran up a 1.25 trillion dollar deficit – excluding a large investment in Katrina and not suffering from the 25% drop in revenues from the 9/11 impact.

Bushs 1.35 trillion is mainly due to the loss in investment activity due to the huge drop in the stock market and its impact – that led to 1/2 that number. When Pelosi and Reid rewrote the 2007-2009 budgets with an almost 30% increase in Federal receipts that Bush – DIDNT have to spend and was counting on – they still managed to outspend Bush in 3 vs 5 years with 30% more money and no 9/11 homeland security funding.

So I guess in Summary – most of the Bush deficits are mainly due to the fact that large drops in federal income make large deficits as the federal budget once passed cannot realistically be stopped. Howver uner Pelosi and Reid with the economy roaring up to record heights and reciepts from 2007-2009 being 30% higher than in 2002-2006 they squandered it.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2009/pdf/hist.pdf

EricPWJohnson on February 22, 2010 at 6:21 AM