Special Report

Why I Am a Republican

Because Karl Rove is, for one thing.

By 6.26.06

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Wednesday
Here I am in Washington, D.C., your nation's capital. I flew in last night with wifey on the Alaska Airlines super flight into Reagan Airport. We went to our apartment and I went right to sleep because I had to get up at 7:30 this morning That's 4:30 Pacific Time, which is pretty early for little me.

I dragged myself out of bed, met my pal Mark Markey from the National Association of Variable Annuities, and went up to Capitol Hill. I was there to testify about retirement planning and the value of annuities before the Senate Select Committee on Aging. I had been told that Hillary Clinton was going to be there and I had something to say to her.

However, she was apparently at another function and did not show up. Several other very kind and attentive Solons were there and I think the hearing was useful. Many, many interns asked for autographs and photos. (I was an intern there in 1963 for Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland, who has a beautiful daughter.) I was sorry Mrs. Clinton was not there because this is what I was going to say to her:

"Senator Clinton, my father was a well-known and well-respected economist and commentator on fiscal policy and public policy generally for sixty years in the Nation's Capital. He, like me, voted for Republicans and worked for Republicans in the White House. When he died on September 8, 1999, his funeral was the very next day.

"Your husband, President Clinton, sent his Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, and a major White House figure in economic policy, a fine man named Gene Sperling, to the funeral. They also delivered to me and my sister a letter from Mr. Clinton and you, Mrs. Clinton, praising my father for his integrity and his commitment to the public welfare. It was probably the kindest letter any high official sent me. For you and Mr. Clinton to have sent that to my sister and me under the circumstances was an astonishingly kind and elevated act. I humbly thank you."

However, she was not there, so after the hearing, my friend from junior high school (the loathsome Montgomery Hills in wonderful Silver Spring) Nolan Rappaport, a Democrat, took me over to meet someone I had wanted to meet for a long time, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston. She is a feisty character and a frequent critic of Mr. Bush. But she was super friendly to me. She noted that she had been at Yale College when I was at the Yale Law School, and we both smiled at how much time had passed. She gave me a big hug and I went on my way.

Lunch at the restaurant at the Watergate Hotel with my wifey and Mark Mackey, and a fine meal it was too. Then a long nap, and a trip up to the Federal Trade Commission for a speech about economics and the FTC. My host was a major smart guy named Michael Salinger, a professor of economics at Boston University, who is an expert in anti-trust and is now director of the Bureau of Economics of the FTC. Big, big, big job. Major responsibility.

I spoke to maybe 200 lawyers and economists in a room on New Jersey Avenue near Georgetown University Law School. A number of the economists had worked with my father and had kind words to say about him, which made me ultra-happy. The questions were uniformly intelligent and thoughtful. I really hated to leave. Then it turned out that my driver had been working at the FTC back in '72-3 when I worked there and we remembered each other. Brought tears to my old eyes.

I really hate the way conservatives trash bureaucrats. Most bureaucrats that I know work hard, don't get paid a lot, and try to do their jobs as well as they can.

Anyway, then another short nap, and then off to dinner with Karl Rove. At his home. With his wife Darby, and his sister-in-law cooking and his son Andrew setting the table. Naturally, the conversation was off the record, but I can say a few things:

First, Karl Rove has lost weight, although he was never fat to start with. He's amazingly fit and trim now. Rep. Murtha, who commented on Karl's posterior as large, has obviously never met Karl.

Second, Karl is probably as important as any human being on this planet except Mr. Bush. He is a world-class political figure. Yet he helps wash the dishes. He helps keep the house clean. He walks the dogs. I have never heard him say one mean word about anyone on the other side. Not once. He is probably the most humble human in a position of high authority I have ever met.

Third when dinner was over, I told Karl I knew he has a lot of work to do and we would call a cab. "Nonsense," he said, "I'll drive you home." And with that, he got into his modest car and drove Alex and me home. (We actually had him drop us at the Barnes & Noble on M Street.)

Now, this is a great man. A great and well-grounded man.

At this point, I question a great deal of Bush administration policy, especially on taxes. But Karl Rove is why I am a Republican. He is how Republicans are. Richard Nixon was not kidding fifty-four years ago when he talked about his wife, Pat, not having a fur coat, but instead happily owned "...a good Republican cloth coat..."

The real Republicans are the hardware store owners in Little Rock, the factory workers in Kentucky who believe in life, the retired aerospace workers in Palm Desert who are concerned about the moral decay of the culture. The wearers of cloth coats. Those are Republicans, to me. The Republican Party is not really about ending the inheritance tax for billionaires. The real Republicans don't even know billionaires. (Most billionaires are Democrats, anyway.) The real Republicans are not about Iraq or the ABM. They are about loving their neighbors and wanting to pass on the same great America they knew as children to their grandchildren.

Real Republicans are not haters. Not ever. It's just not in them to hate, just as it's not in any real American to hate any other American who lives within the law.

Anyway, I left the evening just in a state of amazement about Karl. This is the assassin? This is the thug? Wow, do his critics not know him. But you know what? They wouldn't stop hating him even if they did know him, because that's who they are, no matter who he is.

I don't agree with the President about fiscal policy. I don't agree with him about a happy ending in Iraq. But I sure like being in the same party as Karl Rove, and Julie Eisenhower, and Andy Card, and Senator McCain and Justice Scalia. The party that does not hate.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.