Lieberman as SecDef: outreach?
By now most people have heard the rumor that Sen. Joe Lieberman may replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense next year. It would be a very astute political move (dreamed up by Karl Rove, perhaps?), but I'm not sure about Lieberman's qualifications. Nominating a friendly member of the opposition party would be quite similar to the decision by Bill Clinton after winning reelection in 1996 to replace SecDef William Perry with Sen. William Cohen (R-ME). This was interpreted as a either gesture of conciliation to the Republicans, or as a ploy aimed at coopting GOP moderates. Which leads us to the present situation and the possible "outreach" by Bush to sane Democrats. The mere suggestion that Lieberman might get the SecDef post has created quite a dust storm among leftists: MarKos says he and Rumsfeld are "two peas from the same pod," and Atrios says it "would serve the little quisling right." Now, now, let's try to be nice! As for the Right, Glenn Reynolds wryly observes, "John Kerry has jumped on the bandwagon, which makes me suspect that it's not going anywhere."
GOP regroups at the "Advance"
I did not attend the Virginia "Advance" (an annual conclave of GOP faithful) at the Homestead resort last weekend, so I can't comment on what actually transpired there. In yesterday's Washington Post (Virginia Extra), Michael Shear observed that many Republicans in Virginia think Kilgore lost because he was "not conservative enough." I certainly felt that Kilgore strayed from conservative principles when he pandered to populist sentiment (e.g., saying gasoline prices were "too high"), but my line of criticism diverges from that of some other Republicans. For example, the Post article cited complaints by Phillip Rodokanakis, who just posted a commentary on the GOP "Leadership Vacuum" at the Virginia Club for Growth Web site. I would agree that there was a breakdown in party leadership and communication during the 2004 budget showdown, possibly the fault of Speaker William Howell, but to my dismay, Rodokanakis recycles the self-defeating "RINO" rhetoric, blaming everything on GOP "liberal ... turncoats" (!?) who put a premium on fiscal prudence. (I mentioned that group's involvement in the fall campaign in my blog post of Nov. 7.) I detest impugning others' motives on the basis of honest differences over policy.
As for that Post article, which seemed to hype the degree of tension between factions of the Republican Party, what I found annoying is the presumption that virtually all GOP activists and bloggers are blindly loyal hard-core doctrinarians. In fact, there are various strands of conservativism in America today, distinguished primarily by different short-term priorities, and there is a healthy internal debate about how best to achieve our common long-term goals. Those who sow division, whether on the inside (intolerant "movement" purists) or from the outside (the press), may end up ruining hopes for true conservative reform. If that happens, a policy vacuum will result, much like the early 1990s when Ross Perot gained prominence. Those who attempt to portray political leanings as falling somewwhere along a one-dimensional right-to-left scale simply do not grasp the underlying political dynamics in this country, specifically the latent impulse for fundamental reforms and the intriguing drama about who will capitalize on it.
Finally a couple of other individuals who impressed me this weekend were folks that might have their eyes on a statewide run in '09 or later. One was US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John Brownlee. ... The others were Delegates Ben Cline and Chris Saxman. [emphasis added] These two Shenandoah Valley area legislators are young, dynamic, and solidly conservative. They obviously understand the issues facing our Commonwealth very well and are poised to make some noise in the General Assembly in the coming years. I have a feeling that the Republican faithful will soon learn to love these guys, if they don't already, and that Tim Kaine and his cronies may soon convert their names into epithets.
To which I would add, "Megadittos!"
Kaine comes to the Valley
Speaking of Kaine, the Governor-elect held a public forum on regional transportation issues in Staunton yesterday, and I somehow managed to miss it. For details, see the Staunton News Leader. Yesterday's edition featured a full-page ad from the friendly road-building folks at Star Solutions, warning of future truck traffic nightmares unless their proposal is adopted, paying lip service to rail transport. Get out of our way!