The Crime Bill…GOP’s Unindicted Cohorts

by Patrick J. Buchanan – August 31, 1994

…That crime bill stank to high heaven. Even if all the pork were
excised, there is no way that it can be squared with GOP
philosophy…

Lastweek, six GOP senators deserted Bob Dole, crossed the aisle, voted with George Mitchell, and handed Bill Clinton his biggest victory since the North American Free Trade Agreement — on the $30 billion crime bill. The six trod a path taken a week earlier by 46 House Republicans.

After Mr. Clinton’s victory, Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, in a colloquy on the floor with Richurd Gephardt seemed to offer to the majority Leader an offer of GOP collaboration on future issues. The following is from the Congressional Record:

“Mr. Gingrich: Mr. Speaker, if I might just for a moment ask the majority leader . . . I wonder if there is any possibility during the break or when we come back, if we might talk about health care in a more bipartisan manner since that seemed to be more likely to produce a bill that passes. I just offer that.”

“Mr. Gerhardt: If the gentleman would yield, I know that all of us are interested in addressing the health care issue, and we would be happy to enter into some talk and discussion of how to address this problem. We saw in this last bill that we have got to find a majority to enact legislation, as the gentleman well knows, and will look for votes, and support, and help on both sides of the aisle.”

“Mr. Gingrich: I just would like to suggest if we could look together earlier in the design of the things we try to get votes for, the total number available may be much larger.”

Where, exactly, is this Gingrich-Gephardt entente taking the rest of us?

Newt was echoing Rep. John Kasich, the Ohio GOP conservative who negotiated the crime bill with the Democrats and said, after his deal was cut: “What we are viewing is a tough negotiating process that is the future in this House. This is the way we will govern the House, and govern the country, by making tough, tough decisions and coming toward the middle to serve our country.”

Also “coming toward the middle” was the Rep. Susan Molinari, New York Republican, who sounded like a teenager just home from Girls Nation:

“There we were, toe to toe with Speaker Foley and Leader Gerhardt. We would walk out and say, ‘Pinch me, is this happening?” This is a day the U.S. Congress looks pretty darn good.”

If Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Kasich and Miss Molinari are laying out the GOP game plan for ’95 and ’96, a question: Why is everybody working so hard, and looking forward with such enthusiasm, to Republican gains in 1994?

That crime bill stank to high heaven. Even if all the pork were excised, there is no way that it can be squared with GOP philosophy.

The assault gun ban will give new power to Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents. The “100,000 new cops” is exaggerated by a factor of 5; and the money is to be borrowed by a government $5 trillion in debt, to leverage towns into hiring cops they can’t afford to keep.

The bill federalizes crimes such as spousal abuse, giving the feds police power the Constitution reserves to the states. When Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware Democrat, asked Republican senators what happened to their cherished notion of states rights, they had no response. And, as with NAFTA in 1993, the GOP again threw a rope to a floundering Bill Clinton.

Now one hears the GOP may cut a deal on health care.

Two weeks ago, the party was in the catbird seat. It appeared Republicans might be able to run a sword through the crime bill monster, stop socialized medicine dead in its tracks, and go to the country as a fighting populist party, America’s alternative to the increasingly unpopular Bill Clinton.

Now, the GOP emerges as unindicted co-conspirator in every Clinton victory–as it reverts to the old “let’s-split-the-difference” posture that cost it the presidency.

In 1993, when Republicans to a man opposed Mr. Clinton’s $250 billion tax increase, they restored clarity to national politics. The GOP reclaimed its traditional–and again popular — role as the party of low taxes and less government. But capitulation on the crime bill has again muddied the waters. And it raises, about Beltway Republicans, the question liberals are asking about Bill Clinton: Where is the core? On what issue will this crowd risk all-out battle, humiliation and defeat?

The disheartening collapse on the crime bill has only advanced the starting date of the coming struggle for the soul of the GOP.

Is it just another Big Government Party that wishes to be in on the ground floor–and get a share of the credit–for the latest Big Government initiative? Or does it beliew what it preaches–in a rollback of federal taxes, a repeal of federal laws, a disestablishment of federal agencies?

That’s what the revolt in Middle America is all about, and its message to the GOP is clear: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.