Pence could not have been more clear in his praise of Speaker Dennis Hastert’s “integrity” and other good qualities. And he was emphatic in stating that “the antidote to what ails this Congress is not more of them [Democrats; liberals], it’s more of us [Republicans; conservatives].” But as I listened to him discuss the frustrations of being a real conservative and thus a minority within the Republican majority in the House, I found it easy to understand why so many conservative voters are intensely displeased with the course of GOP congressional leadership for the past eight years. (To be displeased is not to allow even worse folks to be voted in, but it is to be firm and open about that displeasure in any other way or means possible.) The most jaw-dropping account of Pence’s was his description of how the conservative Republican Study Committee in January 2005 had developed a list of some 20 fiscal reform measures that it proposed the House Republican Conference adopt — and how, one by one by one, the first 15 of them or so were all voted down as if they were nuisances.
The abandonment of fiscal discipline is a betrayal of the first order. I will never forget serving under then-House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston in 1995-1996 as we sweated and slaved and took plenty of arrows for our insistence on getting spending under control; and how, in actual dollars (not just projected dollars) we saved $50 billion for the taxpayers in just two years, thus paving the way for four years of budget surpluses (and for an economic boom led by investors thrilled by the sight of such fiscal probity).
But now all that hard work is down the tubes. And no amount of endorsements from Pence about the decency of Hastert can mask the fact that the last eight years has been an utter disaster for the Goldwaterite cause of limited government.