Page 20


MATT WUERKER Potomas sic Park BY JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER Washington, D.C. THE HISTORIC FORCES so busily rendering the Clinton Administration numb and vague, if not wholly null and void, may best be summed up by noting that Bill Clinton heads the only liberal Republican Administration of this century. No wonder nobody understands what is going on, including him; nobody has ever tried this before. Theodore Roosevelt’s elected term might be thought Clinton’s only rival for the title, but the 1904 vintage of liberal Republicanism has not travelled at all well down the corridors of time. In fact, the forgettable William Howard Taft busted more trusts than TR did, leading to Teddy’s disqualification from the dubious honor. Eugene McCarthy has observed that “liberal Republicans are like moss on a rock: They never exhibit much vitality even at the best of times, but they never completely die out either.” That was in a younger, more innocent age, when the air \(and, more imporcreatures. What has happened lately is that, in the absence of any actual liberal Republicans, the Clinton Administration has slipped into the space on the political spectrum they would otherwise have occupied. Clinton is therefore paying the price of being mistaken for a breed of politician so rare as to be extinct. It is a matter of daily fascination in Washington to be the first to define how Clinton has already partaken of extinction himself, though a tiny number of contrarians suspect he could instead reinvigorate the breed. Because the contempt held by the press corps and Congress for the spectacularly inept Bushies and the terminally disengaged Reaganauts has proved habit-forming to its practitioners, almost no evolutionary force is being conceded to the Clintons by those who feed and monitor the species in this fetid political Potomassic Park. The bizarre but incontrovertible fact is that there are no liberal Republicans, and have not been since Wayne Morse went back to being a Democrat in the early 1960s. Nelson Rockefeller, whom generations of howling Goldwaterites and whispering Nixonians excoriated as representative of the tendency, was in fact a corporate lackey of the first James McCarty Yeager, an occasional contributor to the Observer, publishes the Minority Business Report in Washington, D.C. order, that is to say, a normal, moderate Republican. There is mercifully no danger of Kay Bailey Hutchison descending to such a bland fate. The newest, lowest-seniority minority Senator is safely inoculated against moderation by her mentor \(poisoned-pup-resembling Phil testy inclinations. In the Senate today, there are in practice only two wings of the Republican Party: The conservatives and the loonies. Bob Dole of Kansas leads the conservatives, and Jesse Helms of North Carolina the loonies, as any one may plainly see, and you can properly guess Hutchison will waver between the two groups like a drunk on a high wire. In the old days, there were several liberal Republicans in Congress who voted together often enough to be noticed, have some cohesion and create an effect. Nowadays, there is no moderate wing of the party \(since “wing” implies a certain amount of strength and perappendix of liberals Republicans can be detected instead. There are almost enough mildly civilized Republican members out of which such a liberal coalition might form, but those few never vote like it often enough together to constitute real group. There is among Congressional Republicans only a continuing, individually lonely series of breakaways, never coalescing into a chorus of voices crying in the wilderness, always remaining without benefit of disciples, colleagues or listeners. Such equivocal Republican Senatorial figures as William Cohen of Maine, David Durenberger of Minnesota and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania may occasionally venture a tough vote against the Republican orthodoxy and in favor of the cause of civilization, but not without agony, never consistently and rarely simultaneously. Currently the mantra of the Clintonic hordes is, “Wait until the budget passes the Senate. Then Clinton will be seen victorious, and will thus gain the fear and respect he needs to impose his will on health care reform.” The excuse for sacrificing Lath Guinier was that Clinton was going to need the Senate in a quiet and docile mood in order to slip his budget and deficit reduction past them. Evidently the prospect of crucifying Guinier \(for daring to devise effective means of enforcing too much for its, and his, own good. The week after the Guinier defeat, Clinton received a wholly unexpected major victory as the Senate astonishingly passed campaign finance reform with enough Republican votes THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19