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Guest Editorial

They deserved to lose

BY JACOB G. HORNBERGER

Having lost control over the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly also the U.S. Senate, Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. They deserved to lose.

For years, Republicans have used libertarian rhetoric in their political campaigns."We favor freedom, free enterprise, and limited government," Republican candidates so often proclaimed."We're opposed to big government," they loved telling their constituents.

Recall what Republicans used to tell people during the 1980s, when they controlled the White House but not the Congress:"The only reason we're not cutting federal spending is because Democratic control of Congress prevents us from doing so. If we only had control over both the executive and legislative branches, we would slash federal spending and abolish departments and agencies."

The truth, no matter how discomforting Republicans might find it, is that President George W. Bush is nothing more than a variation of Bill Clinton. Sharing Clinton's socialist conviction that the federal government is an agent of morality through its "compassionate" confiscation and redistribution of wealth, Bush has far exceeded Clinton in social-welfare spending.

How many departments were abolished when Republicans controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress? How many agencies? How many spending bills were vetoed? How many pork-barrel projects were jettisoned? How much was federal spending reduced?

Republicans deserved to lose not only because of the damage their big-government devotion has brought to our nation but also because of the horrible death and destruction they have brought to Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

When President Bush announced his intention to invade Iraq, congressional Republicans hopped to attention, clicked their heels, saluted, and said, "Mr. President, we are here to serve you. Issue your orders and we shall obey."

Not one peep about the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. Not one peep about the fact that a war of aggression is a war crime under the principles of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Not one peep about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people who would be killed and maimed in the attempt to "get Saddam." Not one peep about destroying an entire nation.

When the revelations of torture surfaced, where were the great Republican preachers of morality? The Republican members of Congress have stood silently by, year after year, as President Bush set up an international set of secret detention and torture centers, some even located in former Soviet-era torture camps, in a desperate attempt to avoid the constraints of the Constitution.

Even worse, with hardly any discussion or debate and certainly with virtually no input from the public, Republicans quickly rubber-stamped the president's request to let the military hijack our nation's criminal-justice system, suspend habeas corpus, establish kangaroo military tribunals, and ratify the president's ludicrous but ominous designation of American citizens as "unlawful enemy combatants" in the "war on terrorism," denying American citizens of due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and other rights and guarantees that stretch back centuries into English jurisprudential history.

Not even bothering to read the so-called USA Patriot Act, Republican congressmen rubber-stamped the president's abuse of search warrants and then audaciously defended the president's unlawful monitoring of telephone calls without warrants.

Through it all, the federal government has grown larger, more oppressive, more dangerous, and more threatening as each week has passed.

All this is not to say that the Democrats are any better. Their political cowardice and fear of being called "terrorist-loving cowards who hate America" has dissuaded them from opposing consolidation of federal power by the Republicans. But while Republicans and Democrats share the same big-spending, big-government philosophy, there is one big difference between them: Democrats make no bones about being advocates of big spending and big government, while Republicans continue to wrap themselves in libertarian limited-government rhetoric. It is hypocrisy like that, that makes the Republican loss a deserving one.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org).

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