Bill Moyers interviews former Rep. Mickey Edwards, author of Reclaiming Conservatism: How A Great American Political Movement Got Lost - And How It Can Find Its Way Back, and Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth Of A Maverick on what is essentially the bastardization of what the Republican Party has stood for historically.
MICKEY EDWARDS: ...(W)hile I was in the House, Newt Gingrich sort of rose in power. And Newt decided that the purpose of the Republican in Congress was not to carry out the fundamental principles that they had originally believed in, but to defeat Democrats. That was all that mattered. And it became how do— it's always war Democrats versus Republicans, all the time. And when you look at it from that mindset, you have a Republican president — you know, he is not any more the head of a different branch of government. He's your team captain. He's your quarterback.
And so, Gingrich really created a system of nonstop warfare that went well beyond, you know, what the situation was with Nixon. And institutionalized it to an extent that today, when the Congress properly issues — tries to vote a contempt citation against two people on the White House staff, Harriet Myers and Josh Bolton, you know, who defy a Congressional subpoena, and Republicans in Congress walk out in protest, rather than engage in defending the branch of government that they're a part of. So, I put a lot of the blame right on Newt Gingrich. I think he led to a lot of this.
And as Matt Welch points out, despite McCain's Maverick image, he's marching right along in lockstep with Gingrich:
Ever since then, restoring the power of the executive has been a fundamental part of modern Republicanism, which went totally against their traditions. And as part of that, John McCain actually one of the only philosophies that he elucidates in his book, his five books that he's written, is to restore executive power at the expense of Congress, especially when it comes to foreign policy and the making of war. It is basically the only interest that he shows in political philosophy in his books.
But the country has seen the incredible damage done by these kind of philosophies over the last seven years. I think author Sarah Vowell once said that the only thing that surprised her was that her own deep pessimism turned out to be too rosy for reality.
EDWARDS: But I think that he's making a serious mistake in terms of how he frames his persona for the general election. I don't think this country is ready for a continuation of Bush. And I don't think it's ready for a Hagee approved, Hagee-endorsed presidency. And why he's doing that, I don't know.
Well, if this is a losing strategy, by all means, let's hope McCain keeps it up.
Full video and transcripts of this episode available online.