Of the two former GOP colleagues now opposing each other in the race for governor, former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and state Sen. Josh Penry, one seems to believe that contending with the unhappy facts of recent GOP leadership is the only way to be at all persuasive in a general election. That man is not the veteran McInnis. It is young gun Penry. At least that’s what comes out in the video interviews recently conducted by Matthew Roberts for the Rocky Mountain Independent. Penry impresses by simply saying out loud that Bush/Cheney Republicanism failed. As national political analysts have been pointing out recently, that’s no small accomplishment.
This weekend Steve Benan at his Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal, considered the case for Republican penance. He asked Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, to weigh in on the matter.
I believe that political parties should do penance for their mistakes and just losing power is not enough. Part of that involves understanding why those mistakes were made and how to prevent them from happening again. Republicans, however, have done no penance. They just pretend that they did nothing wrong. But until they do penance they don’t deserve any credibility and should be ignored until they do. That’s what my attacks on Bush are all about. I want Republicans to admit they were wrong about him, accept blame for his mistakes, and take some meaningful action to keep them from happening again. Bush should be treated as a pariah, as Richard Nixon was for many years until he rebuilt his credibility by more or less coming clean about Watergate with David Frost and writing a number of thoughtful books.
Then Benan takes up the thread, underlining the way GOP leaders are overwhelmingly continuing to propose the same basic policies based on the same set of ideas and agenda that marked the Bush years. He says GOP leaders want to be treated as knowledgeable and credible not because anything has changed in their worldview or goals but merely because a very brief time has passed since Bush left office.
They feel justified proposing a five-year spending freeze in response to the economic crisis. They feel comfortable pretending to care about the “death panels” policy they already endorsed, promoted, and voted for. They have no qualms making bitter complaints about deficits and debts after having spent most of the decade increasing the size of government, increasing federal spending, and creating of some of the largest deficits in American history.
We’re not supposed to point and laugh at their humiliating ideas and attacks — we’re supposed to negotiate with them…
I suppose the word that keeps coming to mind is “consequences.” The Republican Party of the Bush era failed in ways few have even tried, burdening the nation with challenges and crises that are difficult to address and painful to even think about. They believe, however, there should be no consequences for this. There’s no need, they say, to alter their political beliefs at all. Indeed, they see their main goal as the loyal opposition to undermine efforts to clean up the mess they left. They’re the arsonists hoping to convince the public not to have confidence in the fire department.
Here is Penry on the GOP. At about the the 2:48 mark he goes all in: “Our party has failed America and Colorado in important ways. We ceded the mantle of fiscal discipline. In so many respects, we became the party of business as usual… We just blew it. We stank. It’s a threshold credibility. If we can’t acknowledge our failures, the party’s failures, why would people believe we’re going to do things right in the future.”
Here is McInnis: