In his annual State of the Union address last week before both houses of Congress, President Clinton outlined an ambitious policy agenda that included proposals for reforming social security, Medicare and public education. The President rose above the pettiness of his Senate impeachment trial to deliver to the Congress a series of sound recommendations that would improve the lives of the American people. That evening, it was obvious that there was no reason why this accomplished President, whose tenure has been characterized by amazing growth, optimism and prosperity, should be removed from office. The President is focused on his job of governing the nation and the Democrats now have a basket of substantive ideas that they can use to win.
The President’s agenda for the year takes advantage of the nearly $4.5 trillion in budget surpluses we are expected to accumulate over the next fifteen years. President Clinton has asked Congress to invest much of the combined surpluses into Social Security, which if kept on its current course will go bankrupt some time early in the next century. Unlike the Republicans, the President has put forth a substantive plan on how to save the popular pension program that benefits millions of people. The remainder of the combined 15-year surplus would be used to shore up Medicare and improve public education. The President also called for a $1 raise in the minimum wage, expansion of federal financial aid for college students, as well as moderate increases in defense spending, including a pay raise for American troops. As the President laid out his agenda before both houses of Congress during the State of the Union, the Democrats welcomed it with boisterous applause and support. Ironically, they had been given direction, a sense of mission and purpose as a beleaguered President reinvigorated their party.
The Republicans, though, were not happy. They just sat there; some of them actually left the chamber. They rarely applauded the President’s good news on the state of our union, as well as his many ideas on how to improve the lives of the American people. It was very clear that evening that the Republicans were void of ideas; they were deeply wounded politically.
The Republicans seemed not to support saving Social Security, saving Medicare, improving education, raising the standard of living for our nation’s poor and expanding aid programs for college students. It looks as though the only thing they do support is impeaching the President for lying about sex. The President’s political skill and shining optimism were a wonderful contrast to the apparent out-of-touch insensitivity that currently plagues the Republican Party.
Having to deal with the unpopular impeachment process is just one of the many weaknesses the Republicans are suffering from today. The Republicans have been on an obsessive witch-hunt after President Clinton. They have dedicated months of legislative time and energy into investigating the President’s sex life, when they could have been taking care of more important matters. Their unpopular investigation into the President’s sex life has paralyzed American government. Nothing can get done because Congress is all tied up in the Lewinsky matter.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the American people forgives the President for his sins, and demands that we move on. The Republicans, though, have pursued with their sexual inquisition. Because they have dedicated almost all their time and political capital into the Lewinsky affair, the Republican Party is now the party of sexual McCarthyism, whose primary goal is to destroy a popular President.
On ideology, the Republicans are hopelessly far behind their Democratic counterparts. In their official response to the State of the Union, all the Republicans could muster were modest tax cuts and a return to family values. They reiterated their same old mantra: if America regresses to the past, and government does not involve itself in improving society, our problems will be solved. Do they think we are dumb? Returning America to the 1950s will not improve public education. Eliminating government aid for the poor and cutting taxes for big business will not increase social justice in America. Invoking the word of God in our courts will not end crime. Republican leaders, though, would have you believe otherwise. The Republicans are out-of-touch and appear to be living in their own little world.
The GOP has no concrete plan for social security and Medicare reform or improving America’s failing public education system. They have nothing to offer when it comes to substantial policy issues. The Republicans evidently lack ideas.
The Republican leadership is lost. They are torn between the party’s dominant right wing, which is calling for the President’s head, and the majority of Americans, who want to keep the President in office and want government to get back to work and take care of important issues, like social security, Medicare, and education reform. President Clinton and the Democrats have shown their determination to get beyond the partisan assault on the institution of the Presidency and work to make America better.
The Republicans, though, are in the way, stifling progress. With their obsession with removing the President from office for some minor peccadilloes coupled with their apparent lack of ideas, the American people are beginning to see that the GOP does not stand for anything important.
Ironically, over the past year, it is the Republicans that are squandered and lack ideas. As a result the party is bitter, spiteful, and most importantly unpopular. The Republicans’ current misfortunes show us that an extreme minority can capture either political party. Today’s Republican Party is not the Party of Lincoln, nor of efficient government and a strong America. It seems apparent that today’s GOP is the party of impeachment and of the idea-hungry crazed far right. The Republicans have certainly become the lesser of the two parties, in both substance and ideas. Maybe the Republicans will realize what they have done when the American people deliver them with stunning election defeats in 2000. Come to think of it, maybe they won’t learn their lesson.