For the second year, I had the opportunity to attend the Leadership Program of the Rockies
' annual retreat at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO. This annual event is truly great...both the content and the people you meet there, not to mention the spectacular Broadmoor. I recommend it highly to people who live in and out of Colorado.
At the retreat, I had the opportunity to speak with three Congressmen, including Bob Beauprez whom I hope and expect to be the next Governor of Colorado. We also got to hear from Ann Coulter (energized but overly bombastic and not particularly thoughtful, and thus disappointing), Hugh Hewitt (very smart and nuanced, though maybe more optimistic about the GOP than I am), and Kate O'Beirne (insightful, intelligent, and the most realistic of the three in my view.)
Coulter basically said a few dozen times that Democrats are wrong and borderline-evil (mostly true, but too obvious to bear such repetition). She said that the Democratic base is depressed and that everything is great for the GOP. When I suggested to her that a large part of the GOP base, i.e. those who believe in limited government with limited cost of government, are equally depressed, Colter ignored my question and went on another 3 minute rant about the terrible Democrats.
I made the same suggestion to Hugh Hewitt, i.e. that bridges to nowhere and out of control spending might be a problem at the polls for the Democrats. Hugh took my question seriously but disagreed with my conclusion. He thinks that Iraq and illegal immigration will swamp the importance of more "libertarian" issues in the next election or two. It is a valid position to take but I think Republicans ignore fiscal conservatives at their peril. In elections as close as what we've seen recently, demotivating voters who think like I do might be enough to cost some Republican victories.
In addition to the erudite and interesting talk she gave, Kate O'Beirne was the only of the three keynote conservative speakers who proactively spoke about the unacceptable increase in the size and cost of government under the Bush Administration.
She was also the only one to give the Abramoff scandal the weight I think it deserves. Pollyanna Coulter said it's irrelevant and Hugh Hewitt said it will be only of minor importance at election time. I think O'Beirne is right again.
Jim Wright, the Speaker of the House, was forced to resign under a cloud of corruption in 1989. Then, in 1994 just before the Republican takeover of Congress, Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), a former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee resigned and served time in prison. If there is one thing Americans can't stand, it is corruption and flagrant power-hungriness by our elected officials. It is more important to appear at least somewhat honest and somewhat interested in actually being a public servant than to have just the right set of political views or goals.
As Ms. O'Beirne suggested to me in a later private conversation, the GOP ignores at great peril the constant accusations by Nancy Pelosi and others of GOP corruption. I completely agree with this which is why I have aggressively supported John Shadegg for Majority Leader, including making my views clear to all three Republican congressment whom I spoke with this weekend.
Bottom line: I am probably projecting my own views on other Republicans more than is reasonable, but if the GOP allows itself to be thought of (whether justifiably or not) as corrupt and/or wasteful, a huge number of Republican voters will either stay home or split tickets on election day.
Particularly if the war with Iraq is going reasonably well as we approach November, the maxim that "all politics are local" and that people vote their wallets (rather than foreign policy) will come into play with very damaging outcomes for Republicans.
On the other hand, given that the party of limited government passed the single biggest entitlement ever with the prescription drug benefit in Medicare, plus the outrageous transportation bill including Brige to Nowhere, and the transparent corporate welfare of the farm bill, it's hard to imagine that a Democrat government would be any worse.