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Graham’s Folly

Thursday, April 15, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My column today was about the need of the Senate GOP to hang together for the next few months in order to provide the country with the opportunity to vote up-or-down on the direction that the president, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid have taken the country over the past year-and-a-half.

The deep divide between the parties over the size, cost and rapid expansion of federal power became crystal clear during the debate over Obamacare. The hard left lurch the Congress has taken at the urging of the president represents a significant break with American political traditions, and thus deserves the referendum which November could bring –if the divide remains clear and the philosophical differences pronounced.

Democrats, of course, fear just such an election. They and their colleagues in the MSM are desperate for some show of unity among the Beltway elites which will fudge up the bright lines and allow folks like Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson to take up and wear again the comforting labels of “moderate” and “bipartisan.” The GOP needs to keep the key distinctions alive and center-stage. If the country is indeed a center-right country, the GOP has to again and again emphasize that it is the center-right party and that the Democrats are truly the party of the left, as so clearly demonstrated with Obamacare.

Which is why Senator Graham’s alliance with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman to present a cap-and-tax bill next week is so profoundly destructive, and not just of Graham’s Senate colleagues and especially of his friend John McCain’s re-election effort, but of the broader Republican Party and of American politics generally. Senator Graham’s grasping at “bipartisanship” in the service of yet another massive expansion of the federal government and yet more tax hikes serves to confuse the parties’ belief systems in the minds of voters just as those differences were headed towards a historic fall vote.

Why do it? Even if Graham is deeply and sincerely convinced of the planet’s peril, he cannot be convinced that acting in the next five months will make any difference whatsoever when it comes to global climate change. Perhaps he is afraid that a fleeting opportunity exists to jam through the bill with his name on it –an opportunity that a series of GOP wins in November will erase. But if that is his motive, it would show that the senator understands just how contrary to the party’s true sentiment he is acting.

Or perhaps it is just vanity and the love of a being, yet again, in the center of the Beltway buzz.

Whatever the reason, Senator Graham is doing an enormous disservice to his party and his colleagues, but most important of all, to his country which is profoundly divided at this moment and deserves a respite from the headlong rush towards a gigantic, controlling, ever-expanding federal power. If any version of cap-and-tax passes, it is hard to imagine Senator McCain escaping the political consequences of a deeply repugnant act pushed by his two closest friends in the Senate. No doubt the 2008 GOP nominee will tell his friends to go their own way and vote their own conscience, but surely they must know they are undoing the repairs that Senator McCain has accomplished with the conservative base in recent months just as surely as would a push to revive the immigration initiative of 2007. Senator McCain can denounce the Graham-Lieberman-Kerry bill, but the names have always been partnered with the Arizona senator in the past. It is foolish to expect conservatives to be angry with Graham for opening the door to another federal fiasco and not recall his long-standing joint efforts with the 2008 GOP nominee. If nothing else, Republicans will blame McCain for failing to stop Senator Graham’s folly from taking flight.

What is truly perplexing, as Mark Steyn noted on today’s program —transcript here— is that Senator Graham’s gambit is coming even as the false promise of emissions-trading regimes has fallen apart in the past year, a casualty of cooked books, deceptive rhetorical tactics on opponents, and a fragile economic recovery at home and abroad that can hardly endure even more uncertainty from the central planning authorities.

“Well, I think this is crazy,” Mark said of the Graham initiative. “Even in Australia, we were just talking about Kevin Rudd, Australia, they’ve backpedaled on that. New Zealand, which is one of the few Western countries to sign the Kyoto Treaty and try to live up to it, which the Europeans certainly didn’t do, recognized you can only do it at the price of destroying your economy.”

“And this reminds me of one of the most unattractive features about Republicans,” Steyn continued, “is that when they try to be modish and cool, they’re always slightly out of step.”

“Lindsey Graham getting hot for cap and trade,” he concluded, “is like watching your parents do the twist. It’s embarrassing, and it isn’t half as hip as they think it is.”

The collapse of Copenhagen tore away the mask of unified global opinion on the need to take cap-and-tax-like-unified action, and revealed western enthusiasts for this sort of scheme as patsies of the developing nations and especially China. But still the Senate’s gang of three pushes on. Incredible.

Senator Graham is too smart to believe this scheme work. And he ought to be too loyal to force his party, and especially his friend, to bear the political consequences for his enthusiasm for an experiment the result of which we already know.


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