May 20, 2004
The Rift Grows
The battle for the soul of the GOP appears to be in full swing:A two-month-old House-Senate standoff over the 2005 budget burst into public acrimony yesterday, when the GOP House speaker questioned Sen. John McCain’s credentials as a Republican and suggested that the decorated Vietnam War veteran did not understand the meaning of sacrifice.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) lectured McCain (Ariz.)—an outspoken opponent of Bush’s tax cuts—over war sacrifices, drawing a blistering retort from McCain, who nearly died of war wounds in a North Vietnamese prison camp.
On Tuesday, McCain gave a speech excoriating both political parties for refusing to sacrifice their tax cutting and spending agendas in wartime. At the Capitol yesterday, Hastert shot back: “If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and Bethesda [Naval Hospital]. There’s the sacrifice in this country.”
[nice non-sequitor, Denny]
Amid such rancor, Bush will travel to Capitol Hill this morning to try to rally Republicans on both sides of the Capitol behind his flagging agenda and reassure them that his campaign is on course despite his drop in the polls.
The hurriedly scheduled trip was designed to assuage the trepidation of lawmakers as they head back to their states and districts for the Memorial Day break.
“Our guys need this,” a House Republican aide said. “They can go home and say, ‘We met with the president. He has a vision. We know where he’s going. We trust him. Don’t believe what the media’s telling you.’ ”
Deep cracks are appearing within the GOP, not only over tax policy and the budget deficit but also the conduct of the war in Iraq.
Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) castigated Senate Republicans for continuing their public investigations of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, accusing them of undermining the war effort.
Yesterday, Hastert questioned whether McCain is really a member of Bush’s party. “A Republican?” Hastert said with feigned incredulity. He then criticized McCain’s opposition to extending tax cuts in wartime.
“We’re trying to make sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it,” Hastert said. “And at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically.”
McCain retorted: “The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops. All we are called upon to do is to not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility.”
DeLay said, “I can’t believe that those three or four senators are going to bring down one of the best budgets we’ve ever seen over an issue that makes it difficult for Republicans to get tax relief.”
I have no idea what to make of DeLay’s “difficult for Republicans to get tax relief” line, and if that kind of jibberish is where his faction is at that’s a sad state of affairs. I would sure hate to be in his shoes though, are these guys really trying to regain the bully pulpit for their disgusting propaganda by marginalizing McCain, Graham, and the entire mainstream media (a la Instapundit)- while simultaneously trying to defend the acts at Abu Ghraib even as every day brings more damning evidence against their case? Sounds pretty desperate to me.
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