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Jewish World Review July 16, 1999 / 3 Av, 5759

Tony Snow

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Pointed to a destination called 'Nowhere' -- BOB SMITH LEFT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY in a huff this week, accusing the GOP of terminal perfidy. Standing on the Senate floor, he spent three quarters of an hour detailing his charge that the Party of Lincoln has fallen into the thrall of pollsters, corporatists, internationalists, gun-controllers and squishes.

It was a Shakespearean performance -- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Smith is a nice guy, an honest guy, an earnest guy. Bellicosity does not become him. In this instance, it made him look half comic, half demonic.

Smith, like other conservatives, has grown restive during the Age of Clinton. He thinks Congress could have steamrolled Priapus of the Ozarks if only Republicans had shown some spine.

This belief puts him in league with a small band of right-wingers who, like Rebels rampaging through the West after the Civil War, revel in the romantic futility of their cause. Veteran critics such as Paul Weyrich and Howard Phillips view politics as an eternal struggle of good against evil, with them fending off Beelzebub’s armies. They consider compromise a form of apostasy and pragmatism a euphemism for "sin."

They have derided every Republican leader in recent memory, including Ronald Reagan, as a gutless mountebank. Now, of course, they lionize the Gipper. Smith even went so far as to liken the 40th president to Christ, suggesting that Reagan’s critics "weren’t qualified to kiss the hem of his garment."

Smith developed the theme at length in his farewell oration. He excoriated Republicans for supporting GATT, NAFTA, the United Nations. and the International Monetary Fund. He groused about their failure to push a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, their use of pollsters and consultants, their refusal to shut down federal departments and agencies, and their outright abandonment of various planks in the Republican platform. Say what you will about these cavils, Reagan was guilty on each count and more.

Reagan didn’t fuss with details. He struck themes -- cut taxes, slow government spending, beat the Commies -- and then took small steps to demonstrate his reliability.

He fired striking air-traffic controllers to show he was in charge. He fulfilled his promise to push for tax cuts. He built up the military, bits at a time. He took a firm line against the Soviet Union without engaging in fruitless confrontation.

He had to make choices along the way. He didn’t abolish the Department of Education, as promised. He didn’t push for an anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution, as promised. He didn’t disenfranchise the U.N. He didn’t reverse his party’s course on free trade. He didn’t disavow the Chinese entente pioneered by Nixon.

Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t delude himself or others into believing that government could ever serve as an instrument of personal salvation. Reagan preached the primacy of the American citizen, and he reveled in describing how "ordinary" accomplishments laid the foundation for an extraordinary civilization.

The Taliban Republicans take a darker view of human nature. They consider the rest of us a bunch of potential dupes and regard society as a stew of corrupting influences. They look upon government as the ultimate street cleaner and see nothing untoward in declaring the moral equivalent of martial law: Jail the sinners, elevate the saints, establish the rule of the righteous, and do it all before the next sunrise.

They share two traits with left-wing activists: impatience and faith in government intervention. They think it possible to resolve an issue such as abortion through constitutional fiat, rather than public debate, just as the left treats the class-action lawsuit as a better form of legislation. They love a good symbolic tantrum -- such as opposing global trade, even though economic isolation could beggar us.

Smith’s Raiders mistake impatience for principle, intemperance for passion and naivete for honor. They do not consider any triumph complete unless it makes the losers miserable. (Why give Satan surcease?) They have forgotten that the aim of government is not salvation, but concord; that the engine for progress is consent, not subjugation. Their constant complaint -- nobody listens to them -- ought to send them the message that they’re losers, not leaders.

Of course, every political party needs its purists, its crusaders for right and true. Bob Smith chose to welcome a new millennium by riding away -- not into sunset, but shadows -- with his six-shooter loaded, his pack fully stocked and his noble steed pointed toward a destination called 'Nowhere.'


07/12/99: Punditry for Dummies
07/08/99: Queen Tut?
07/02/99: Master's day of reckoning is fast approaching
06/28/99: Used tires and hope
06/21/99: The first baby-boom grudge match
06/11/99: My exploratory committee
06/01/99: Sending the sheriff away from Dodge City
05/28/99: Rosie is the 'Queen' of WHAT!?
05/27/99: Stopping a dictator --- the EPA
05/14/99: Symbolism over substance
05/07/99: Why Kosovo is unique
04/30/99: A blithe acceptance of espionage
04/22/99: Snacking on life-splitting agony
04/15/99: Starr’s last stand?
04/12/99: Combining punishment and proselytism
04/05/99: Now that the ‘honorables’ have returned …
03/29/99: And the senators pressed on
03/25/99: Moronic meddling
03/22/99: Kangas, the Left’s ‘Foster’? More like a diligent nut
03/18/99: Does Forbes have a chance?
03/15/99: Team Clinton aren’t treasonists ...
03/11/99: Blackmun’s burden
03/08/99: The Lewinsky Principle
03/05/99: Buchanan & Ventura’s lure
03/01/99: Open season on women
02/25/99: The birth of political wisdom
02/22/99: Children of optimism
02/18/99: Wake up, Republicans!
02/16/99: Why we feel so good
02/11/99: What exactly does George W. stand for?
02/08/99: Run, GOPers, run?
02/04/99: The languid sigh of waves lapping ashore
02/01/99: Verbal vortex
01/28/99: To be a ‘sell-out’ or an unelectable pol --- that is the question
01/25/99: The apogee of a trend
01/21/99:What my 3-year-old taught me
01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate