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Jewish World Review May 30, 2001 / 8 Sivan, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans? -- LISTENING to the chatterers on the presumed Jeffords betrayal is like that weird disease where the senses get all confused with each other, and you end up smelling colors and seeing sounds and hearing odors. Someone from Newsweek said that Bush really wasn't so good at mollifying people who disagreed with him, and some other bright person, I think from the Hudson Institute, blamed it all on the White House's failure to be nice to Jeffords. That sort of analysis confuses good manners with political seriousness, as well as blaming the wrong party (if anyone mishandled Jeffords it's more likely to have been Lott et. al. than W. and Cheney).

A long-time professional politician doesn't switch parties just because he's miffed by Republican rudeness; he's seen the Democrats refuse elementary courtesies to Strom Thurmond, quite clearly because they hope to wear him down and add to their body count. He's not performing this astonishing favor because he expects to be treated with tender loving care. He's taking a risk, and rather a big risk at that. He will lose most of his staff, who spent hours begging him not to betray the trust of his voters and his associates. And he surely knows that defectors are usually treated with suspicion, if not contempt. If you've done it once, you can do it again, so who can trust you?

One might argue, as many no doubt will, that Jeffords is doing it "out of conviction," but there are two answers to that: He's known for years that he was a square liberal peg in a round Republican party hole, so if he felt so strongly about it he would have moved long since. Second, there is no sudden, fundamental disagreement between Jeffords and the Republican party. No, the motives are neither personal nor ideological, they are political. He believes he will obtain a large net gain from this operation, and he may well be right. He will certainly be rewarded by the Democrats, and the Republicans, well, the Republicans are not known for their sharp teeth and slashing claws.

Despite being routinely battered and humiliated by the Democrats, the Republicans seem bound and determined to conduct their political business in accordance with the religious instruction "turn the other cheek." This sort of feel-good silliness led Machiavelli to reflect that Christianity is a great thing, provided it's the right sort of Christianity, namely the sort that kills heretics and marches on infidels, not the sort that files into church to listen to sermons about forgiving enemies and turning other cheeks, and certainly not the sort that finds martyrdom attractive.

This administration and its congressional allies have not only been maddeningly slow in getting their nominees in place, but they have left the bulk of the government's apparatus in the hands of Clinton appointees. Scores of high-level Clintonians remain just where they were before Inauguration Day. In some cases, as for example the Department of State, that is largely because the new secretary wants it that way, believing that "professionals" will carry out the president's mission as effectively as people who are chosen by him and serve at his pleasure. In other cases, as for example the Pentagon, it is largely because Democrats in the Senate have slowed down the tempo of confirmation to record lows, perhaps because they knew Jeffords's move was coming. Whatever the explanation, the Republicans have left some of their finest people totally exposed to Democrats' slanders, and they do not seem inclined to take effective action. George W. Bush may well owe his office to Ted Olson's brilliance and energy, yet I haven't heard a single word from the White House denouncing the lies directed at him by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

If W. had routinely called for the resignation of all political appointees from the previous administration, he would have served notice that he was serious about governing, and understood that power equals personnel. By failing to act seriously, he invited further challenge, and the Democrats eagerly responded by pouncing on his nominees with their well-honed methods of personal destruction. Now he's in a real jam. If he thought it was hard getting his team in place with Democrats in the minority, just wait until he sends his nominees to face Democratic committee chairmen.

It's admirable to preach sweet reason, but it's not good enough for a leader, who must answer Machiavelli's basic question: Is it better to be loved or feared? Love does work some times, but it's tenuous; fear works every time.

Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans? Certainly not Jim Jeffords.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen