Loyalty Comes Back to Bite Bush

National Review recently ran an editorial which stated:

“If New Hampshire Republican Senator John Sununu wants to endanger our national security, shouldn’t he at least know what he’s talking about? Apparently that’s too much to ask of the usually admirable senator, who is helping filibuster the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.”

As usual, Buckley’s magazine gets it right.  And if the stakes weren’t so high (our national security is at stake, for crying out loud), this Republican defection would be laughable.  That’s because it’s our own darn fault.  Half these guys should never have been elected, in the first place.

John Sununu’s ascension to the U.S. Senate is a prime example of party loyalty gone awry.  Back in 2002, commentator David Pyne wrote: “When centrist Republicans gleefully dump the Party’s most ardent conservative champions like Senator Bob Smith and Representative Bob Barr for much more moderate and wishy-washy challengers, you have to really wonder whether Bauer was right and whether Smith’s defeat at the hands of senior Republican operatives and plotters signals that the Republican Party has finally lost its soul.”

So why did the establishment take down Senator Bob Smith, in favor of Rep. John Sununu?  For one, Smith was too conservative for them.  Secondly, he made the stupid mistake of leaving the Republican Party (bad advice).  But the third reason probably has to do with the fact that the first George Bush was blindly loyal to the first John Sununu (who served as George Herbert Walker Bush’s Chief of Staff).  (This loyalty, no doubt, dates back to the time when George H.W. Bush needed the support of then-Governor Sununu to win the New Hampshire Primary.)

While this Bush/Sununu friendship was mutually beneficial to the first Bush and the first Sununu, it wasn’t quite so rewarding for the American people.  All we got was a tax hike (the most famous broken promise in American politics) and the nomination of liberal David H. Souter to the Supreme Court.   

Reportedly, the first Sununu feuded bitterly with Republican strategist Lee Atwater, who warned that a tax hike would lead to Bush’s defeat.  Atwater saw Sununu as an elitist Governor of a small state, who wrongly believed he understood politics.  Atwater resented that Sununu viewed him as being merely a lowly “staffer.”  Sadly, Atwater’s ill prevented him from winning that argument.  Of course, Atwater was right.  Bill Clinton was elected.  And Sununu was partly to blame.

Now, normally a Chief of Staff, like the first Sununu, who arguably cost the President his re-election, would be swept aside, relegated to the back bench.  But loyalty – not effectiveness – is what’s rewarded, it seems.  And today, the Bush Family loyalty is being repaid in the form of a filibuster from their old family friend, little Johnny Sununu.

How’s that for loyalty?

For a White House that prides itself on wielding power and rewarding friends, they dropped the ball on two of the four filibustering Senators.

Lindsey Graham …quot; who supported John McCain over Bush in the vitally important South Carolina Republican Primary …quot; somehow managed to get elected to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina, in 2002.  And John Sununu would never have ousted an entrenched incumbent without the support of Republican insiders, who turned their back on the more conservative Smith. 

Had the Bush’s learned their lesson from the first Sununu, conservative Senator Bob Smith would still be in office, voting for the Patriot Act.  The lesson, by the way, has not been learned.  Currently, Republicans are falling over themselves to support liberal Republican Senator John Chaffee (RI) …quot; a man who didn’t even vote for George W. Bush in 2004.  How’s that for loyalty?

Of course, these four Republican defections are so more costly than they appear.  In truth, they account for dozens of votes, because they provide cover for Democrats who may have otherwise been afraid to oppose the Patriot Act.  Now, these Democrats can always say, “even four Republicans think Bush is wrong.”  Ironically, they may provide Bush some cover, too.  If, God forbid, another attack occurs on Bush’s watch, this vote will allow Bush to blame Democrats …quot; and these four Republicans. 

We Republicans have nobody to blame but ourselves for these defections.  The chickens have come home to roost. 

The problem is that you and I are the ones who stand to be hurt by it.