Bennett vs. Beck

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.