A new day has dawned for Republicans. After being humiliated in the election last November, Republicans have come back to life. And it’s such a surprise, not only to the Democrats and to the media, but even to the Republicans themselves.
Nobody begins a filibuster at the start of a session, least of all during a new President’s honeymoon period. Conventional wisdom teaches that filibusters can win only at the end of a session when the calendar overtakes the hot air, and the talkers can run out the clock leaving the legislation suspended in mid air.
President Clinton knew he had the Democratic votes to pass anything he wanted, so why mess around with any Republicans? The expected scenario was that Republican Senators would talk for a few days and then “compromise” by swallowing a $14 billion stimulus package instead of the original price tag of $16 billion.
The Clinton Administration trotted out all its tiresome rhetoric designed to intimidate Republicans. They cried that the voters in November had voted against “gridlock,” and their tear-jerking rhetoric accused Republicans of depriving needy young people of jobs.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a typical Republican cave-in. The Easter recess intervened and Senators discovered that their constituents think that deficits are worse than “gridlock,” and, besides, they don’t believe that the government can stimulate the economy by more spending.
The dramatic success of the Senate filibuster was not only an embarrassing defeat for President Clinton, but it was a shot in the arms for Republicans. All of a sudden, they are talking about defeating Clinton’s entire agenda and electing a Republican Congress in 1994.
Pundits are pondering how Clinton could stumble so badly as President after his Academy Award role as a candidate. But that performance was mostly illusion; he didn’t “win” the election George Bush lost it and Ross Perot rattled the numbers to make it
possible for a minority candidate to win with 43 percent of the vote.
Bill and Hillary Clinton and their coterie of FOBs (Friends of Bill) and FOHs (Friends of Hillary) are simply out of touch with mainstream America. That’s why they didn’t anticipate the political impact of the nannygate and the gays in the military decisions.
It was obvious that Clinton knew all about Zoe Baird’s nannygate problems before he appointed her and that he made the wrong political judgment that they didn’t matter. Then he made the same kind of error in his decision to allow open gays in the military.
Clinton thought that, since he and the Democratic Party Platform had both made their position on gays very clear, and since the Republicans had failed to make this an issue during the campaign, he was home free in implementing his policy immediately. The firestorm came from the public, not from Republicans.
Also muddying up Clinton’s first hundred days is Bosnia, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. But how can we expect Clinton to have the judgment to deal with a complicated issue like Bosnia when his Administration’s military attack on some 90 people in Waco, Texas was so completely botched by both Lloyd Bentsen’s Treasury Department and Janet Reno’s Justice Department that it caused horrendous and unnecessary loss of life?
The biggest battle of Clinton’s first year is coming up this summer, and this is where the effect of the Senate filibuster on the stimulus package is so encouraging. Whereas a month ago, Republicans thought that Hillary’s health care reform was a freight train rolling downhill, their attitude is entirely different today.
Republicans now believe that the Clinton health care reform, whatever it turns out to be, will not pass because it is too costly and requires too much big government. It will surely include vastly higher taxes, higher health care prices despite obnoxious price controls, oppressive government mandates of all kinds, depriving Americans of their right to choose their own doctors, forcing us to pay for all elective middle-class abortions as part of the “basic health care package,” and a national I.D. card that invades the privacy of all Americans.
Even such fancy slogans as “managed competition,” “universal coverage,” and “peace of mind” cannot save the Clinton plan. Not only are Republicans no longer afraid of saying “Not!”, they have a splendid proposal of their own.
Thanks to the lessons of the senate filibuster victory, the Republican counter proposal won’t be a Republican-style, less-costly, we-can-do-it-better type of “managed competition,” but will be a dramatically different plan that will directly address the problem of cost by making relatively simple changes in the tax code. It will give every American the opportunity to set up an Individual Medical Savings Account under a policy of tax fairness.