Monday, November 08, 2004

Specter is not the problem

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:30 AM |  

Last Thursday was my virgin experience with the Fraters Libertas team at Keegan’s Irish Pub trivia night, and it’s nice to know that Chad “the Elder” spoke kindly and still respected me in the morning -- although we only came in second. Nonetheless, I must beg to differ with the Elder’s criticism of Hugh Hewitt’s defense of Arlen Specter. The Elder quotes the following from Hewitt’s post--

On reflection, it seems to me a very bad idea to try and topple Senator Specter from what in the ordinary course of events would be his Chairmanship. I hope my colleagues on the center-right that embrace pro-life politics will reconsider.

I understand that Senator Specter voted against Robert Bork, and that Senator Specter is not a friend of the pro-life movement. But genuine progress in the fight to return American public opinion to an affirmation of life before birth cannot be made through strong-armed tactics and almost certainly will not be lasting if it is accomplished through a putsch. Institutions that are destabilized for expediency's sake do not regain stability after a convenient alteration.
Which leads to the Elder’s lament --

I for one have had enough of the "stability" in the Senate offered by the likes of Specter, Chafee, and Snowe. When Specter was challenged in the Republican primary by conservative Pat Toomey, many commentators on the right (including yours truly) backed Toomey. Unfortunately, President Bush, Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania's other senator), and Hugh supported Specter and helped him fend off Toomey.
A valid point, perhaps, but it pales in light of remarks Hewitt makes further along in his post --

What also matters is a transparent debate and vote on the rules governing the nominations by the president to the courts. A great deal of extra-constitutional nonsense has grown up in the traditions of the Senate. The GOP majority ought to insist on a rule that assures that every nominee that gains a majority vote of the Judiciary Committee be brought to the floor. This is a long overdue reform of reactionary practices such as "blue slip" holds and filibusters of judicial nominees. Conservatives are not demanding the right reforms when they aim at Senator Specter. They should be insisting on a rebalancing of the processes employed by the Senate according to constitutional norms.
The Elder/Hewitt disagreement among reasonable people is the major issue facing conservatives in the afterglow of the presidential election. A “putsch” of those in either party who don’t tow the conservative line may provide some short-term satisfaction, but long term the best way to ensure the flourishing of conservatism is to strip government of the arbitrary, i.e. extra-constitutional, powers it’s assumed in the past decades.

Limited government is the essence of conservative political thought. The social agenda of the conservative movement, when it moves from persuasion to power politics, stands in antipathy to the principle of limited government. On this one, Hewitt is right.