“We’re going to find out whether Republicans have an appetite for a substantial reform agenda against pork spending, out of control budgets, and deal-making politics in this town”.—Rep. John Shadegg, candidate for House Majority Leader.
Well, maybe we just did, because as I write, Shadegg, the most aggressive change agent and spending reformer in the race to replace Tom Delay, has lost his bid to John Boehner of Ohio, one who seems more of a business as usual and incremental reformer. Time will tell what this means, but only a short time, because unless the Republicans return to some semblance of the revolutionary Gingrich-led “spirit of 1994” very soon, they may kiss their majority goodbye.
The Abramoff affair is not primarily about lobby reform; it’s about correcting the worst abuses of the corruption of power that arise from the protection of the majority political class. More importantly, it is about the inherent corruption of big government itself, which, at today’s levels of intrusion in the lives and welfare of Americans, makes rent-seekers of even the most virtuous of our citizens. And it starts at the top. For all of President Bush’s virtues, spending restraint isn’t one of them, and his so-called “strong government conservatism” is as much an oxymoron as his “compassionate conservatism” is a redundancy. After all, he is still the only President since John Quincy Adams never to have vetoed a bill, and parts of his State of the Union messages, on the domestic side, are beginning to sound more and more like a blueprint for the Great Society of the 21st century. If could have asked for one addition to this year’s speech, it would have been the demand that Congress end, not mend, the destructive system of so-called “earmarks”, along with the commitment to veto any bill that includes them. There is more to it than that, but it is central to the problem and would have been a good start and a hopeful message for this election year. Good luck, Congressman Boehner.