In 2004, I warned Republican leaders of a coming storm.
My book “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day” enraged party sycophants for stating the obvious — that the Republican Party risked losing its majority if it continued turning away from the conservative values that put it in power. Three years later, I’m still being attacked by Bush loyalists who seem more concerned with their president’s image than their party’s future.
I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.
That’s why I’m offering all Republican Party operatives and general suck-ups amnesty over the next month. During said time period, any apologist for the Grand Old Party who has uttered profane statements about me, my family or my backswing in retaliation for my telling the truth about our president and party can drop me a line and all will be forgiven. Aw, hell. I’ll forgive them anyway. That’s just the kind of guy I am. Besides, it’s easy to be gracious when you know that you are so right and your critics are so miserably wrong.
Like I said, I’ve seen this movie before.
The ‘Newt wars’
Throughout 1997 and 1998, Republican Party suck-ups blasted young conservatives like Steve Largent, Tom Coburn, Matt Salmon and me for holding our party leadership accountable for the promises made in the Contract With America.
When Newt Gingrich and the party bosses backed down on spending cuts, we fought back.
When they tried to expand congressional spending and staff sizes, we shut down Congress until they lived up to their political promises in the contract.
And when Newt told the New York Times he was willing to back down on tax cuts, we threatened to take down his speakership. Gingrich called those tax cuts the “crown jewels” of the contract while campaigning and promised if we were put in power, they would pass. We saw to it that he kept his word.
That angered a lot of Republican apologists who screamed at us in congressional caucus meetings. Chairmen sought retribution against those of us who dared to question party leadership. At one point, all the military bases in my district had their funding stripped for fiscal year 1998.
But because there were more than a few true conservatives in Congress back then, that strategy lasted about 24 hours. Gingrich was notified by an old friend from my district that my conservative allies would take him down before allowing one of our own to be punished for making the speaker keep his word. A few days later I was in the speaker’s office with a list of military bases and told to distribute the money how I liked. I told them I would defer to the generals’ and admirals’ previous requests.
In the end, Newt’s continued attacks on conservatives became his undoing. After the 1998 elections, the group of conservatives he derided as “The Perfectionist Caucus” showed him the door.
Once he left, a remarkable thing happened. All those chairmen, party operatives, staff assistants, media types and lobbyists who had been cursing my name under their breath for two years started coming up and slapping me on the back.
“Way to go, Joe! We were with you all the time.”
Some would even make a nasty comment about Gingrich to prove just how aligned we were. Even Karl Rove mused that George Bush would never have been elected had we not removed Newt as speaker.
Undermining the conservative movement
He’s right, but I expected no flowers from the White House this Valentine’s Day because I have angered more than my share of Republican apologists for suggesting Bush has done more to damage the conservative movement than Newt Gingrich could ever have managed. In fact, Bush’s Big Government Republicanism has so undermined Ronald Reagan’s conservative movement, Gingrich is the only champion of conservative causes still occupying the national stage.
But don’t try to tell that to the same suck-ups who blasted me during the Newt wars. They will tell you that conservatives should look away when Republicans set records for federal spending, national deficits and spiraling debts. They will tell you that even though we criticized Bill Clinton for ignoring his generals’ advice, we should give George W. Bush a free pass for doing the same thing 10 years later. And if we are truly loyal party members, we should attack those generals as defeatists.
Well, it’s all too much for me. I thank God for conservatives like Largent, Coburn and those who entered Congress in 1994. I thank God for Ronald Reagan’s daring to take on a bloated party establishment in 1976. How funny that Reagan saved the same party that despised him for taking on a sitting president.
Party types called Reagan a traitor in 1976 for daring to buck the political establishment. But the way I see it, the Gipper showed loyalty by telling the truth and making his party better. Four years later, the Reagan Revolution was lodged because of his courage.
We need more Reagans today.