Campaign 2010

Apr 23, 2004

The Club for Growth’s Hostile Takeover

Cokie and Steven V. Roberts:

Too often in today’s Washington, compromise is equated with betrayal. When political rivalry turns into a jihad, the system breaks down.

Newt Gingrich learned this when he was Speaker of the House 10 years ago and tried to work with pragmatic Democrats. He was so undermined by hardliners in his own party that he denounced them as the “perfectionist caucus,” but in the end, purists of Toomey’s stripe helped drive Gingrich from office.

Tom DeLay of Texas, the Majority Leader and a devout jihadist, now runs the House of Representatives. As a result, the mood on Capitol Hill is more hostile than we’ve seen during 40 years of covering politics.

Last summer, Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, sent Capitol police to round-up wayward Democrats who stormed out of a meeting to protest Thomas’ high-handed tactics.

The Senate has preserved some measure of bipartisan cooperation, thanks to pragmatists like Specter in both parties. Sen. Kennedy, for instance, worked closely with President Bush on an education bill.

But if the purge of Specter succeeds, the Senate could come to resemble the House and compromise will be more difficult. Even if Specter survives, centrists in the future could be intimidated by his primary challenge.

That’s exactly what Toomey supporters are hoping for. The Club for Growth, a well-financed and rigidly conservative group, has spent about $1 million backing Toomey, and its president, Stephen Moore, says other moderates should learn a lesson from Specter’s “near death” experience: if you’re not pure, we’ll come after you, too.

Is the Club for Growth a surrogate for the GOP, or is it the other way around?

For those who missed the Club’s ad against Dean in Iowa, you can still watch it here.  Here’s the key excerpt:

Announcer off-screen: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HOWARD DEAN’S PLANS TO RAISE TAXES ON FAMILIES BY NINETEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS A YEAR?

Husband: WHAT DO I THINK?
WELL, I THINK HOWARD DEAN SHOULD TAKE HIS TAX HIKING, GOVERNMENT-EXPANDING, LATTE-DRINKING, SUSHI-EATING, VOLVO-DRIVING, NEW YORK TIMES-READING . . .

Wife: . . . BODY PIERCING, HOLLYWOOD-LOVING, LEFT-WING FREAK SHOW BACK TO VERMONT, WHERE IT BELONGS.

This is not Bush’s Daddy’s GOP, indeed this is truly a hostile takeover.  One board member laughed about GOP Leaders trying to hold off their well-financed assault:

“We got calls from senior establishment Republicans asking what we were doing. My goodness, bringing competition into the political system. My Lord. I wish I had a few of them on tape. It was wonderful.”


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