The Rev. Pat Robertson, a noted Republican famous for lambasting leftist groups, turned his criticism to the Republican Party in his speech at the Third Annual Virginia Federation of Teenage Republicans Convention on Saturday afternoon.
The founder of the Christian Broadcast Network charged the Republican Congress as "abandoning" fiscal responsibility, noting among other things the $223 million for the construction of a bridge connecting Alaska's Gravina Island to Ketchikan (also dubbed "the Bridge to Nowhere").
The "Bridge to Nowhere" was removed from the budget. Unfortunately, the MONEY for the Bridge was left IN the budget as a transportation block grant to Alaska.
"This is our government at work, and unfortunately it is run by Republicans," he said.
He doesn't mean "unfortunately" as in "I wish it were run by democrats". Instead, it means that it is the republican's fault. That is largely true, although if the democrats wanted to support fiscal responsibility there are enough republicans that together they would succeed. The democrats instead vote to obstruct and thwart anything that might put congress in a good light.
The democrats are content to complain from the sidelines, refusing to enter the field even though there is a large group of republicans ready to join them for fiscal sanity.
Fact is, democrats don't want to bring the budget under control They want to raise taxes, and cut defense spending. They want to open the borders, not close them. They want amnesty for illegals, not deportation.
The democrats vote against proposals only because they are obstructing everything. They won't vote for alternatives that would be better because they refuse to give the republicans a victory.
While Bush's approval ratings drop, Congress's is even worse. And that's what the democrats want. They worked for 5 years to drive the numbers down so they could win back congress. When given a choice between making a bill better, or making congress look bad, they almost always choose the latter.
Here's just one example -- The democrats rail against the house immigration bill that makes being illegal a felony. But when a group of republicans tried to change it to a misdemeoner, the democrats voted AGAINST the change. They wanted the bill to have "felony" in it so they could run against it -- which is hypocrisy since they could have fixed it right then and there.
It's easy to attack those in power, but the republican majority is far to slim to be able to govern effectively with an opposition party bent on destroying the country just to win back power.
That's what Robertson SHOULD have talked about.
In light of the NSA wire-tapping revelation, which he called a "tool of oppression," Robertson admonished the Bush administration for "encroaching on" Americans' personal liberties
Robertson is given to rhetorical excess, and this comment is no different. We are not oppressed when multi-national corporations keep a database of which numbers we call -- it's called a BILLING RECORD. And we are not oppressed when the government has access to a list of linked phone numbers.
Real examples of oppression abound -- Especially targeted at Christians trying to live their faith. When oppression is misused to describe benign but critical work by our government to capture terrorists before they attack, it loses it's meaning and effect.
It's a shame that Robertson's good points about fiscal responsibility are lost in his penchant for making headlines through attacks and hyperbole. It's what makes him a controversal figure, which weakens his ability to communicate the good news or the warnings he so desperately wants us to take to heart. For example, this:
"One day this whole thing is going to be in your hands," Robertson said to the group of teenagers, encouraging them not to stray from their "core values" - Christianity, limited government and fiscal responsibility - in their political pursuits.
Limited government and fiscal responsibility are truly core values of the "true conservatives". But while Christianity is the one true religion, there are many republicans of other faiths, and even of no faith. By asserting christianity itself as a core political value, his message becomes devisive, and make a mockery of the "big tent" of the republican party.
My religion is an important part of my life, but politics should be about governing, not about religion. The constitution makes it clear that no religious test shall be required for holding office -- nor should it be a defining characteristic of a political movement.
Vincent Harris, the organizer of the event, chimed in:
"We have lost our core values," the 18-year-old said, "and have become too exclusionary."
Maybe what we have lost is our understanding of logic. For republicans to truly come back to our "core values", we must convince some of the superiority of those values, and purge our ranks of those who do not espouse those core values -- otherwise you end up with a congress run by "republicans" which fails to act according to those principles. This requires us to be MORE exclusionary, not less.
In fact, it is our embrace of "openness", along with our failure to win the hearts and minds of those in our tent to our philosophy, that has lead to a congress that seems all too often ready to act in opposition to our core values.
No philosophy has a majority following at this time. So long as we fail to educate, and we have a two-party system, followers of both parties will continue to be dissappointed both in the lack of clarity and vision of their leaders, and in their "exclusion" based on non-essential wedge issues of members of their own party.
The convention was held, Harris said, to educate young Republicans and encourage involvement at the grassroots level.
This is a fine, nobel purpose. I thank Harris for organizing this event. However, it is ironic that if the teens take to heart what Robertson said, and enter grass-roots politics, they would likely be working to unseat the republicans who have failed to uphold our core values in the house, and replace them with "true believers" in those values.
And when they do, those who decry the "exclusivity" of the party will turn on these young workers for "dividing the party" and "excluding 'good republicans' based on a narrow ideological 'litmus test'".