JWR Eric BreindelMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. TobinThomas Sowell
Robert ScheerDon FederRoger Simon
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / February 8, 1998 / 12 Shevat, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen Cat got the GOP's tongue?

WATCHING THE LISTLESS REPUBLICANS attempt to deal with the challenge of a wounded Bill Clinton, it is mind-boggling to consider how utterly flattened these Republicans would have been had the president not entangled himself in another scandal.

Hill Republicans are meekly resigned to passing a good deal of the legislation President Clinton outlined in his State of the Union address -- including three items to which Republicans are philosophically opposed: raising the minimum wage, permitting tax credits for child-care expenses, and expanding the Medicare program. If the president were not facing perjury and other allegations -- who knows? -- the Republican Party might be ready to endorse Hillary's health-care overhaul.

Where are their voices? Republicans complain that their policy proposals simply do not get the kind of press attention the president gets. True, there is no platform for the opposition quite like the State of the Union address. But if it is more difficult for Republicans to get a hearing, perhaps they ought to find ways to get around the press -- perhaps even paid advertising. The Republican Party enjoys a huge fund-raising advantage over the Democrats. Why not put some of that "soft money" into voter education? If voters could identify Republican ideas, they might be more willing to vote for Republican candidates.

Of course, in the current environment, you must search pretty far to find Republican ideas.

This week, on Capital Hill, while wringing their hands over substantive policy matters, Republicans took on two matters: renaming Washington's National Airport and blocking the nomination of Dr. David Satcher for surgeon general.

Naming National Airport for Ronald Reagan is fine idea. By winning the Cold War, President Reagan made our current fiscal health possible. (Clinton takes credit for the balanced budget, but it was the "peace dividend" as well as the insistence by a Republican Congress on balancing the budget that got us where we are today.) While renaming the airport is laudable, it is purely symbolic. It will be an empty gesture if the same Congress that renames the airport also expands government in the hundreds of ways this Democratic president proposes.

As for Dr. Satcher, he is, of course, as unsatisfactory as Clinton's previous nominees for the post. But the surgeon general has no power and little influence. Republicans object to his stand on partial-birth abortion. That's understandable. But it takes time and energy to oppose Satcher -- energy that could more profitably be spent lobbying those holdouts who may change their votes and help pass the ban on partial-birth abortion over the president's veto.

Moreover, the president has presented a comprehensive challenge to Republicans that must be answered on every front. They must remind themselves and the nation why it is not a good idea for the federal government to dictate class size or subsidize mothers who choose to put their kids in day care.

We do face an educational crisis in this country, but class size is only a part of it. Poor standards, educational fads like whole language and whole math, and union monopolies plague our schools far more than crowded classrooms. Republicans should champion the kids and their needs rather than handing another lollipop to the teachers unions.

The child-care tax credit is dreadful policy. It penalizes those mothers who choose to raise their own kids and subsidizes those who put their kids in day care. This is not "helping families" -- it is preferring institutional over home care. And Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is one Republican who has been forthright in saying so.

Finally, this administration, or rather this White House occupant, represents a moral challenge to Republicans. Will they have the courage to demand an accounting for his personal behavior, or will they meekly follow the polls and keep their heads down, hoping Ken Starr will do everything? The Lewinsky/Jordan scandal is not primarily a legal matter, it is a political one. Despite promises to bring out the whole truth at some later date, the White House is obviously not going to deviate from its stonewalling tactic unless the polls force the issue. Republicans owe it to their country to speak for the "better angels of our nature" at this squalid time.


2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.