Friday, January 06, 2006

Republican Reckoning

It's nice to see the Wall Street Journal's editorial page--covenant of America's corporate cotton plantation--once in a while wizen up to its heroes' corruptions. Here are the choice graphs from today's "Cleaning House" editorial. But as always, the Journal doesn't make the connection between the vice it decries and the vice inherent to the philosophy it extols: Running government as a business is not just a contradiction in terms. It's an a priori conflict of interest. In a corporate world government's role is above all that of arbitrator, balancer, watchdog (remember West Virginia). Running government as a business is a euphemistic way of saying that government is an adjunct of business. Without government's checks and balances on a private sector programmed to run amok (if permitted), you get the Abramoff effect. The Journal's editorial looks only to clean house of its most vulgar felons, those dumb enough (in the Journal's unspoken implication) to get caught. It says nothing about the underlying crud of a system it still defends as its own:

What's notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled "conservatives," who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better. [...]

More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing. [...]

Republicans won't escape voter anger by writing new rules but only by returning to their self-professed principles. Gradually since 1994 they've decided they want to reform and limit government less than they want to use government to entrench their own power, and in the case of the Abramoffs to get rich doing so. If Speaker Dennis Hastert, interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other GOP leaders are too insulated to realize this, then Republicans need new leaders, and right away.

That is, more savvy scoundrels. [See the full editorial...]