Moderation, Compromise, and...
By William Westmiller
Dick Gephardt knows what he wants in a new House Speaker. Anyone who will come on bended knee and plead for a coalition of compromise. Republicans should discard that kind of ponderous retreat and forge ahead with a clean slate of congressional leaders, starting with Speaker Chris Cox.
Newt's departure was a wise and necessary act. He had long ago abandoned his own Republican revolution and lost touch with his party base. Too often he had been humbled by Clinton's tactics and speechless against Gephardt's talking points. The transportation pork compromise, the massive budget debacle, and a hollow election strategy fully justified his removal from the Speaker's chair. Bob Livingston, who announced his candidacy for Speaker before Newt's resignation, deserves credit for seeing the obvious. But, the powerful Appropriations Committee Chair wants to preserve the status-quo established by Newt, not initiate a fresh start that will invigorate Republican activism. His key strategy, backed by Majority Leader Dick Armey and Conference Chair John Boehner, precisely fits Dick Gephardt's most erotic dreams. Abandon Republican principles, compromise on issues, moderate your ideology, and allow Democrats to guide the way toward a working, non-partisan coalition. Sure.
Californian Chris Cox isn't laden with debts and obligations incurred by Livingston or the previous Speaker. With a slate of new leaders, he will have a free hand to exercise his intellect and talents on being a Speaker, advancing a new Republican agenda. Cox is not just even-tempered, charismatic, and photogenic, he has clearly identified one of the key failures of the last Congress. His budget processreform would end the last minute compromises and restore the initiative of the House in setting spending priorities. He is amainstream conservative, but not a captive of special interests. He has focused on basic Republican ideals of giving power to the people, through lessgovernment intervention and lower taxes. If the Republican caucus can put aside their petty legislative domains and look to the future, Chris Cox will be the next Speaker.
The other leadership positions in the House also need fresh blood. Majority Leader Dick Armey should step aside for Oklahoman Steve Largent. The big Texan should focus on selling his flat tax plan to his colleagues and drop other burdens. He promised that the minimum wage increase would pass "over his dead body". It's time to lay down.
Armey lost a lot of friends in the last election by dabbling in primary politics against strong Republican candidates, to the benefit of well-healed candidates who failed miserably last Tuesday. His public appearances tend to be stiff and structured. Largent, on the other hand, has a strong media persona and a solid grasp of the spin factory. He can flip Democrat issues over sound Republican analysis and have opponents pinned to the floor crying "Uncle". Steve (The Mind) Largent has the intellectual muscle to motivate both House members and constituents.
Conference Chair John Boehner was supposed to motivate Republican Senators to help carry legislative priorities. He failed on tax reform, he failed on education priorities, he failed on dozens of other important bills passed by the House. The best contribution he could make to the Republican party is to take some affirmative action (in the best sense of the words) by breaking the white male monopoly on Republican leadership. Oklahoman J.C. Watts shouldn't become Conference Chair because he's black; he should be selected because he's a young, exciting, conservative voice for individual liberty and fiscal prudence. Watts is a good political choice because he can talk to middle America and he can crack the Democrat monopoly on minority voters. Similar motives dictate the election of Jennifer Dunn to Conference Vice-Chair.
The only uncontested position for next week's election is Tom Delay, the Majority Whip. One of the characteristics of the job is to get along with everyone, understanding their motives, and inclinations. He seems to have accomplished that, but wisdom should provoke him to take a breather and regain his focus on the issues that are critical to the Republican future. John Kasich has the energy and enthusiasm to do the job and avoid the petty issues that divide Republicans. The Budget Committee Chairman should put his Presidential ambitions on the back burner and devote his time to establishing a solid legislative record for the party.
There needs to be a new perspective on legislative goals for the 106th Congress. All of the leadership positions have a part to play, but the Speaker's position must be occupied by a strong,well-spoken leader who can earn the respect of Republican consitutents, thoughtful independents and conservative Democrats. Chris Cox has that fortitude to explain to Bill Clinton and Dick Gephardt that they're the minority and will have to compromise with Republicans. Not vice-versa.
©1998, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CD) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
coxspeak.c13 ~800 Words