The Record’s opinion piece on “Today’s Republican Party Leaders…” (January 26, 1999; Dan Elsea ’02) lacks the fairness and accuracy required to spark any thoughtful discussion, the point of any good and responsible editorial. The essay is so polar that rather than explore any specific issues that the Republican party has not followed up on since 1994 upset victories, it only pats president Clinton on the back while using the impeachment proceedings as evidence that the Republicans have become the “lesser of the two parties.” The article mentions no fewer that fourteen times that the Republicans are either the party of impeachment or that they have no ideas at all. This partisan rant is neither constructive nor helpful to anyone interested in learning about politics.
Elsea’s article is not only appalling in its irresponsibility; it’s filled with partisan rhetoric. Several paragraphs are devoted to Clinton’s “sound recommendations” put forth in the State of the Union address. Elsea uses each of these to show how progressive the president is, failing to take the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of any one of them. The most obvious of these is the brief discussion on Social Security. By refusing to examine the validity of any of Clinton’s statements, Elsea misleads the reader into thinking that Clinton’s plan to save Social Security using money exclusively from the budget surplus is a sound one. In fact, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified last week before a committee that taxes would probably have to be raised considerably to fund Clinton’s program. This is because the surplus is not guaranteed, especially if a recession were to occur. Simply listing a series of problems and giving their solutions nifty titles (as many presidents do in State of the Union addresses) does not make them sound. As Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson (R) put it, “[Clinton] touched on every subject except his dog and the homeless â€” and he promised everybody something, so you’ve got to like it.” Clinton’s laundry list of an agenda had some interesting ideas. However, not even a president’s strongest supporters can expect that more than a few ideas put forth in a State of the Union speech will be successful. But they should be open for debate.
It is important to point out a grave misconception on the part of the author that the Republicans acted in an inappropriate way during the State of the Union address. The keen observation is made that the Republicans “just sat there” and “seemed not to support” a number of Clinton’s ideas. That the Republicans “barely applauded the President’s good news on the state of our union” is an unfair and uninsightful comment. First off, I would say that the lack of clapping generally came in response to certain suggestions, not the state of our union, which is unarguably strong. It is also possible, though no mention of this is made, that the Republicans lack of applause came from their belief that president Clinton was taking credit for strengths in our union which he had little to do with. Indeed, if we had a Republican president, no one would expect the Democrats to be applauding for every idea and statement. The behavior of the Republicans was neither inappropriate nor unexpected.
The Republican Party is in a tough spot. They are spearheading a Senate trial that is unpopular and probably doomed to failure. However, that does not make them the “party of Sexual McCarthyism.” This phrase, ‘Sexual McCarthyism’ (the uncited title of Alan Dershowitz’ new book and a phrase later used by a Democratic representative from New York), is a cute summation of a serious process that involves our president’s lying, deception, and notably perjury and obstructing of justice. While I will not argue for removal from office I will ask: what if no one were held accountable for such actions?
The Republicans will suffer a political defeat due to the tiresome impeachment process but it does not spell doom for the party. Clinton is extremely popular in his own party and he has recently employed Republican economic strategy by giving tax breaks to a variety of groups including big business such as the steel industry. This is sure to help him maintain support from the moderate and even more conservative supporters who already like him. Still, Clinton’s presidency is damaged and with him out of the picture in 2000, the Democrats look to be a strong party. However, inviting a new wave of bipartisan support, new House Speaker Dennis Hastert has vowed to end the bitterness between the parties and lead the Republican Party out of its current trouble.
Elsea’s predictions of Democratic sweeps in 2000 may prove to be accurate but they are not a foregone conclusion.
Jeremy Faust ’01