Commentary Magazine

The Republicans

To the Editor:

Daniel Casse’s “What the Republicans Have Forgotten” [October 1999] is essentially a hymn to Nelson Rockefeller. There is, of course, the obligatory bow to Ronald Reagan, a conservative, but clearly the proper sort—a big-government conservative.

Let me pose the following questions to Mr. Casse: Are the lives of most people really improved by the departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, and Transportation? Has increased social spending actually done more good than harm? Mr. Casse’s obvious affirmation of these notions is of a piece with his parroting of the Democrats. For example, he writes that “the Republican-led Congress shut down the federal government,” without any mention of presidential intransigence during the 1995 showdown. He even cites the Clinton impeachment and the push for term limits as instances of the Republicans being “reflexively anti-government.” But Mr. Casse’s disdain for conservatism is rawest in the intimation that fanaticism inheres in being pro-life.

Perhaps Republicans dedicated to buying votes using the public treasury and acting indifferently toward perjury and abortion are the kind of Republicans most likely to succeed. Still, a dose of principle would be refreshing again, and perhaps even rewarding.

John D. King
Austin, Texas



To the Editor:

Republicans can be faulted for many things, but their refusal to support President Clinton’s war against the former Yugoslavia blindly is not one of them, as Daniel Casse believes. Most Republicans were absolutely correct in not endorsing Clinton’s undeclared Wag-the-Dog war launched concurrently with the Chinagate disclosures.

Mr. Casse even compares the Republicans who refused to endorse this massive attack on a small, friendly nation engaged in an internal struggle against Muslim separatists with the efforts of left-wing Democrats to stop President Bush’s campaign against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which threatened Saudi Arabia and the oil of the Middle East.

He also accuses the Republicans of abandoning Ronald Reagan’s policies of global involvement. Reagan, however, never would have involved the U.S. in a war against a country that was no threat to it or to any other nation. He certainly would not have carried on a barbaric 78-day bombing campaign against defenseless civilians.

George Rubin
New York City



To the Editor:

Daniel Casse mistakenly attributes a Senate subcommittee’s recommendation to eliminate federal funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to a reduced commitment on the part of congressional Republicans to promoting democracy abroad. In fact, the subcommittee’s action was taken because of a single member—its chairman—whose views on this issue are at odds with those of the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans. Still, the subcommittee’s action created a real crisis deriving from the tight budgetary situation and the difficulty of finding an account against which to offset the restoration of NED funding. In the end, the Endowment’s appropriation was restored on the Senate floor by voice vote, following eloquent speeches by Richard Lugar (R-In.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ar.).

Carl Gershman
President, National
Endowment for Democracy
Washington, D.C.



Daniel Casse writes:

John D. King’s letter notwithstanding, nowhere in my article did I express enthusiasm for Nelson Rockefeller or suggest that pro-life Republicans are fanatics. But Mr. King is correct about one thing: I am skeptical of those Republicans who think that eliminating a few cabinet departments, establishing congressional term limits, and creating budget standoffs based on short-term (and ultimately erroneous) budget projections can serve as a substitute for a conservative governing agenda. Though Ronald Reagan made efforts to scale back the size and scope of the federal government, he also had other priorities—cuts in marginal tax rates, a stronger military, and the promotion of American idealism. Over the last few years these ideas have become alien to many leading Republicans, just as they were to Nelson Rockefeller.

I share George Rubin’s criticism of President Clinton’s conduct of the war in Yugoslavia, but I suspect that had he still been in office, Ronald Reagan would have stood with Margaret Thatcher, who saw the battle against Slobodan Milosevic as a defense of Western interests against a destabilizing regional aggressor. In any case, he certainly never would have sympathized with the congressional Republicans who used the war in Yugoslavia as an opportunity for trying to direct our armed forces from the floor of the House of Representatives.

Finally, I thank Carl Gershman for pointing out that some Republicans did come to the rescue of the National Endowment for Democracy. But the fact that, a decade after Reagan left office, Republicans cannot unite around a program that clearly expresses his belief in spreading democracy reminds us how frayed the party has become.


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