When Hillary Clinton faces Trey Gowdy and the “Benghazi Committee” on Thursday to discuss her “private e-mail server” and the deaths of four Americans in Libya after her State Department refused requests for additional security, she will likely repeat her recent argument: “It’s purely partisan politics.”
But even if Kevin “Whoops” McCarthy’s boneheaded statement were true that the committee’s initial purpose was, in part, to harm Hillary Clinton — and it would not surprise me if it were true in his mind even if not in Chairman Gowdy’s — that does not change the facts which the committee has uncovered exposing Mrs. Clinton’s incompetence, above-the-law haughtiness, and violations of policy, common sense, and possibly several federal statutes.
Neither the media nor the public should give any credence to Hillary’s attack-the-messenger deflections; that those seeking the truth are Republicans (who may hope that Mrs. Clinton’s political ambitions are damaged by her true character coming to light) is irrelevant. After all, would Democrats be seeking the truth at all? When it comes to her violating rules or laws that protect national security, what difference at this point does it make? I mean, Chris Stevens is still dead, right? Isn’t the partisanship of her GOP questioners at least equally matched by the partisanship of House Democrats whose constant goal is to stymie and shut down the committee in order to protect Mrs. Clinton from the consequences of her own cynical (and perhaps criminal) behavior?
Is there a candidate in this race (including Donald Trump, about whom more in a moment) who stands for so little other than her own desire for power? Bernie Sanders is a nut, and Joe Biden not far behind, but at least they believe in something; I cannot name a single fundamental principle regarding the proper role of government which Mrs. Clinton deeply believes and which she has consistently held dear. I defy you to find a Clinton supporter who can find such a principle either (in her, and perhaps in themselves.)
Speaking of cynical behavior and loose attachment to principle, how about The Donald? This week’s breathless media focus is on Trump’s strange (and, at least for most Republicans, politically unwise) unsubtle assignment of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks to former President George W. Bush, triggering applause from liberals and a furious response from the current Bush family candidate for president.
But the still-simmering family feud has overshadowed a more important — and more presidentially disqualifying — statement by Mr. Trump, made on Fox News Sunday: when asked about his willingness to “shut down the government” (a period during which most important functions of government continue to operate) over the debt ceiling Trump’s answer was, “I don’t want to say. I want to be unpredictable.” Anchor Chris Wallace asked a follow-up question regarding shutting down the government to end Planned Parenthood funding to which Trump reiterated, “I want to show unpredictability.”
Does Mr. Trump not realize that this isn’t football or a Hollywood cliffhanger, where half the fun is not knowing what’s going to happen?
If a candidate for your local school board was asked whether she supported the existence of charter schools and responded with, “I don’t want to say. I want to be unpredictable,” would you think to yourself, “Hey, that will sure make next year’s vote about my child’s education exciting!” Or would you conclude that the candidate is simply masking ignorance, laziness, or political stupidity of the first order? (If you’d prefer the “unpredictability,” you’re a possible Trump supporter — and a terrible parent.)
Since his cultish supporters think that any statement contrary to conventional political wisdom demonstrates the hyper-worthiness of their man, Trump’s opacity may not hurt his poll numbers. They will, however, further limit his ability to gain additional supporters. As well they should.
Donald, this is not a game in which surprise is a winning strategy, either for your electoral ambitions or for a nation choosing a leader as we mercifully exit the most harmful presidency in recent, or perhaps all of, American history and continue through a time of great challenge, both at home and abroad. There is nothing more important in this election than knowing what the candidates believe (standing for good television ratings does not suffice) and what actions they are willing to take to implement policies based on those beliefs.
Indeed, one problem for Republicans is that Americans are unsure what elected GOP politicians really believe — and believe enough to act on. Sure, they talk a big game about Planned Parenthood or immigration or national security, but what have they actually done? Indeed, what have they even tried to do?
Consider this: President Obama and each of the Democratic presidential candidates have posited climate change as the most pressing issue facing the nation and the world. There has been no significant change in global temperatures for more than eighteen years and climate change is perpetually at or near the very bottom of issues the public cares about (although with a huge partisan divide, which may explain the Democrats’ mindless pandering).
Yet a group of people who should be laughed off the ballot nevertheless stand a real chance of fielding the eventual general election winner because the GOP (in part due to Trump’s sucking up so much media attention) is doing such a poor job of explaining the conservative alternative.
For Republicans to be seen by voters as worthy of maintaining congressional majorities and taking back the White House, party leaders and prominent GOP candidates need to do a much better job of explaining what they are for, how they will take steps toward those goals (in ways that don’t strike the ordinary American as “extreme”), and — most importantly — why those goals benefit the vast majority of our citizens now and in the future. In other words, the GOP needs to do precisely the opposite of what Donald Trump just did.
That’s why it’s gratifying to read (in a NRCC summary of legislative activity for the coming week) that…
[T]he House is likely to consider theRestoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act. The bill, which does not currently have a number, is a consolidated bill from provisions reported by three different House committees. The bill repeals several elements of Obamacare including the individual mandate, the employer mandates, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the medical device tax, and the “Cadillac” tax. The bill also blocks federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.
Because the measure is moving through the budget reconciliation process — meaning it can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote and not be subject to a Democratic protect-the-president filibuster — it stands a strong chance of making it to the president’s desk. Of course, Obama will veto the bill but making him do so has substantial political benefits: reminding voters of an important issue and the Republicans’ position on it, demonstrating legislative steps to deal with the issue, and waking Americans up to the fundamental but often neglected truism that “elections have consequences.”
(Republicans should stop adding to their own bills unrelated or unnecessarily divisive items which detract from their effectiveness as political messages, especially messages aimed at garnering votes from independent voters, women, etc. Including a Planned Parenthood provision in Obamacare reform is just such a poison pill, allowing Democrats to say they voted against the bill in the name of “women’s health.”)
The heart of winning elections is convincing voters that your principles and the policies you will support based on those principles will benefit the nation. At this early point in the election cycle, an understanding of this basic fact seems remarkably absent: Hillary does not stand for anything other than her own divine right to power. Donald Trump does not want to tell us what he stands for when it comes to important questions that will inevitably face a president, as if “unpredictability” is an asset in the White House. And congressional GOP leadership has spent so long in fear of Barack Obama’s bully pulpit and the “mainstream” media amplifying his lies and demonization that few Americans even know what Republican politicians truly stand for.
This is no way to run a campaign, much less to run a country.
How remarkable it is — and what an indictment of American voters and the American educational system — that each party’s frontrunner is winning by standing for almost nothing at all.
And what a vindication it will be when the eventual election winner is a principled conservative who stands for something and has both the courage and the ability to convince the American people how much that matters.