Republican Amnesia

Posted Sept. 08, 2008, at 5:19 p.m.

It was encouraging that John McCain, in accepting his party’s nomination for president last week, pledged to end the partisan rancor in Washington and to restore trust in the Republican Party.

It is hard to know, however, which Republican ticket the public will consider on the November ballot. Is it the one that has put partisan bickering aside or the one that blames liberals for all the current problems in Washington? Is it the one that truly wants to change Washington or the one that largely wants to continue the policies of the current administration?

To answer these questions, Sen. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, must first reconcile their pledge of change with the amnesia that permeated the Republican convention.

Speaker after speaker in St. Paul blamed Democrats for problems ranging from the economic downturn to high energy prices to the country’s supposed moral decline.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who sought the Republican nomination during the primaries, tried to make the case that Washington, because of increased government spending, Supreme Court decisions and roadblocks to increased oil drilling, was run by liberals. These are odd conclusions when Republicans have controlled the White House for nearly eight years and Congress for six of those years.

President Bush is the biggest-spending president in 30 years, according to the conservative Cato Institute. His tax cuts and the war in Iraq, both of which Sen. McCain supports, are largely to blame for record growth of the federal deficit.

In many recovery programs, the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging its existence. Sen. McCain took that step by acknowledging his party’s failings, but stepped back when he spread the blame to the Democrats. “We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Sen. Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.”

As problematic as blaming others is taking credit for things that didn’t happen or were the result of others’ action. Gov. Palin has repeatedly said that she said “thanks, but no thanks” to Congress when it came to the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere.” The bridge, which she supported when she ran for governor in 2006, became a cause celebre for those opposed to congressional earmarks. But the state still got the $220 million, it just used it on other projects.

To bolster Gov. Palin’s credentials, many have touted her military experience as commander of the Alaska National Guard. Every state’s National Guard has two missions. When it is involved in emergency preparations and response, such as to hurricanes and floods, it is technically under the governor’s control, although decisions are largely made by the person who oversees the state’s guard units. When it is involved in military activities, it is under the Pentagon’s control.

If Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin — and the Republican Party — are serious about reform (and they should be), they must stop such foolish exaggerations and the skewed recollections of the last eight years.

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