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Stu Rothenberg Invents A New Kind of “Conservative”

Stu Rothenberg

One of the DC establishment’s favorite political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, has invented a new kind of “conservative” in the latest issue of the influential Rothenberg Political Report: the pragmatic conservative.

This “pragmatic conservative” sounds a lot like a typical establishment Republican who talks a good game, but when it comes to actually delivering on the conservative agenda, particularly in the areas of the growth of government and spending, their so-called "pragmatism" always results in more spending and more government.

Among the so-called “pragmatic conservatives” Rothenberg cites are establishment Republicans Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho’s 2nd District and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, neither of whom are pragmatic or conservative.

The bill of particulars against Simpson and Cochran are particularly useful in defining what I call in my new book TAKEOVER, the most important battle in American politics today, and it isn’t between Democrats and Republicans, it is between limited government constitutional conservatives and Big Government Republicans.

Establishment Republican Rep. Mike Simpson isn’t just using the term “conservative” to describe his decidedly non-conservative voting records; he is selling a phony version of reality in an effort to convince voters to keep him in office.

Factcheck.org says “Rep. Mike Simpson falsely says in a TV ad that he voted to ‘repeal the Wall Street bailout and repay taxpayers’.” While The Washington Post says about Simpson’s ad campaign, “Simpson, by picking and choosing what votes he wants to highlight, is misleading Idaho voters.”

I agree with Club for Growth President Chris Chocola’s observation that, “It’s bad enough that Mike Simpson is a liberal who voted for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, but now he’s being dishonest with Idaho voters… This is a ‘for it, before I was against it’ that would make John Kerry blush.”

Simpson’s case is such an egregious example of political lying that even the “fact checkers” of the establishment media have ridiculed his claim that he opposed the now-despised Wall Street bailout known as TARP and I’m astonished that Stu Rothenberg wouldn’t take at least one line in his article to note that. 

Senator Thad Cochran has been on Capitol Hill for over 40 years – and been in the Senate since 1978 – which pretty much says it all right there. His “bipartisanship” and deal making have left him one of the few old-time Southern pork barrel politicians remaining in Washington and distinctly out of step with the limited government constitutional conservatism of the grassroots Republican voters in Mississippi.

Senator Cochran’s comment “The Tea Party, you know, is something I don't really know a lot about,” makes me wonder if he was stuck in a time warp in the U.S. Capitol for the past five years.

Did he miss Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster against Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim that the Obama administration could use drones to kill Americans on American soil?

Where was Senator Cochran during the whole Cut, Cap and Balance debate in 2011, where Tea Party-backed Members of Congress fought to impose some sort of fiscal discipline on the federal government’s out-of-control spending?

How about the multitude of debates over repealing Obamacare or the Tea Party opposition to the Ryan – Murray budget’s demolition of the spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011?

Apparently Thad Cochran missed all of this because he’s not really interested in those issues that the patriots of the Tea Party movement care about, he’s only interested in one thing; pork.

Cochran has spent a thirty-six year career in the Senate grasping for pork- barrel projects and feeding at the taxpayer-funded trough instead of fighting for conservative principles.

In 2010, while the Tea Party was campaigning and winning elections on the idea that Republicans should stand for limited government constitutional principles – starting with spending restraint – Citizens Against Government Waste named Cochran the leading pork-seeker in the Senate because he had his name on 240 earmarked projects worth $490.2 million of your hard-earned dollars. 

If that is Rothenberg’s idea of a “pragmatic conservative” it is the kind of “pragmatism” that has led the federal government to a $17 trillion debt with no end in sight to the spending, and to Republicans only wining a majority of the popular vote for President in one of the last six Presidential elections.  

To me Stu Rothenberg’s “pragmatic conservative” sounds an awful lot like the “progressive conservatives” that Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan battled a generation ago. 

To paraphrase what Goldwater wrote in The Conscience of a Conservative: This is a strange label indeed. It implies that “ordinary” conservatism is not “pragmatic.” Have we forgotten that America made its greatest progress when conservative principles were honored and preserved?

Stu Rothenberg is a smart guy, but he apparently missed Bill Murray’s classic movie comedy “Groundhog Day” in which Murray becomes stuck in a time warp because of his selfish and self-centered ways. 

With “pragmatic conservatives” like Mike Simpson and Thad Cochran representing the GOP, Republican voters are stuck in a similar time warp. Until they get rid of Big Government Republicans like Simpson and Cochran, voters in Idaho and Mississippi (and taxpayers in the rest of America) are doomed to repeat the cycle of spending, deficit, and debt that has grown the federal government’s debt past $17 trillion whether Big Government Democrats or Big Government Republicans governed America.

There is one point in Rothenberg’s latest column upon which Stu Rothenberg and I agree, whether Simpson and Cochran are defeated or not: “No matter the wins and losses in the GOP ‘civil war’ this year, don’t expect this to be the end of that fight. The party remains deeply divided, and both sides have the resources and commitment needed to take the fight into 2015 and 2016.” 

In TAKEOVER I outline a plan by which limited government constitutional conservatives can win that fight in 2014 and 2016, break Republicans out of the Groundhog Day cycle, takeover the GOP, make the Republican Party the political home of limited government constitutional conservatives and be governing America by 2017. 

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