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Memo From Ben Franklin To Senators Collins, Hagel, and Warner

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Republican senators are gathering at the Library of Congress today.  From RollCall (Subscription required):

Senators will meet at the Library of Congress on Friday to brainstorm over legislative priorities and agree on the makings of a GOP agenda they hope will serve as a strong alternative to the Democrats. Republicans believe that one reason they lost so handily in 2006 is because they lost sight of their defining party principles and didn’t effectively lay out their vision to the electorate.

Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (Ariz.) is coordinating the session, which is set to include broad discussions of party principles such as fiscal discipline, national security and personal responsibility. Members also are expected to begin setting their two-year legislative goals on issues such as energy, health care, tax policy, immigration reform and judicial nominations.

Kyl said Wednesday that while Iraq is at the forefront of Senators’ minds this week, he doesn’t expect it to trump Friday’s largely domestic-related retreat. He said Senators have “an agenda to talk about” and will operate under a set time frame for their discussions.

Senators Collins, Hagel and Warner could present a panel on how best to undermine the effort to regain a majority.  If they vote for the Levin-Warner resolution and the NRSC remains fixed on supporting their re-election campaigns, thousands of contributors will shun the NRSC.  The other 46 Republicans might want to point out that their defeatist gambit has been decisively rejected by their colleagues but far more importantly, the Republican Party that sent them there.

And all the Republicans might benefit from reading Ben Franklin’s speech to the Constitutional Convention on its last day, which began:

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right.

There is something for everyone in the McCain-Lieberman-Cornyn compromise resolution.  It has been strengthened by an explicit approval of the president’s and General Petraeus’ belief that Baghdad is the central battle in the Iraq front in the greater war.

There is also something to hate in it for everone, including the absurd phrase “benchmarks.”

But it is the rallying point for non-defeatists, and Howard Dean’s bit of candor yesterday is another neon sign blinking in front of Senators Collins, Hagel and Warner.

So, after two weeks the debate the Senate GOP has revealed itself as confused about the war, fractured and unlikely to forge anything like the coherent unit the Democrats have been since Jim Jeffords jumped. 

But at least this recognition has arrived early.  Either it gets an agenda together and sticks with it, agrees among themselves that individual ego-serving free-lancing means the minority for years to come, or it won’t be long before the smash-up comes.

And as for the NRSC, it will soon have a choice –if Senators Collins, Hagel or Warner judge themselves the superiors of old Ben.


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