01/27/2005: Gem o'the Day:
You wouldn't know it from the rather whiny title of her new book -- "It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America" -- but there was a time not so long ago when Christine Todd Whitman was being called the future of the Republican Party.
The GOP, groggy from the loss of the presidency after 12 years of dominance, certainly needed a face-lift. The ravening beast that had always coiled within the dapper bosom of the Reagan presidency had burst forth during the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. The Reagan-era slogan "It's Morning in America" had given way to "It's Payback Time, Liberal Scum." When she became New Jersey's first woman governor in 1993, Whitman looked like a bellwether back to the sensible middle way -- a moderate Republican who was pro-choice, talked a good game about fiscal discipline, and seemed accepting of gays. Her direct, plain-spoken manner was immensely appealing in person. Pundits talked of "Whitman Republicans" rescuing the GOP from its extreme right contingent; Whitman herself seemed destined for bigger things than the governor's mansion.
That was then, this is now. Bush's narrow victory in November completed the Republican Party's transformation from a vehicle for principled conservatives into a debt-fueled pimpmobile for crony capitalists and religious hucksters. Rockefeller Republicans -- a tag Whitman has proudly embraced -- are second only to the Clintons in the party demonology. The tax code is about to be revamped to allow further looting of the public coffers, and culture-war commandos are drawing a bead on everything from Social Security to SpongeBob Squarepants. And even as Bush and his backers are doing doughnuts on the National Mall, Whitman steps up to ask, with a cluelessness that borders on the sublime: "Will the GOP interpret the president's reelection victory as a mandate, even a requirement, to continue to cater to the demands of the far right on a series of key wedge issues?"
--Steven Hart, "The Moderate Who Wasn't There
Len on 01.27.05 @ 02:53 PM CST