Washington Watch: Dole to GOP: Get some new ideas

Bob Dole, the former presidential and vice presidential nominee for the Republican party, no longer feels at home in his old party.

May 29, 2013 22:10
4 minute read.
Bob and Elizabeth Dole

Bob Dole370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

GOP doesn’t stand for the Gipper’s Old Party anymore, according to former Kansas senator Bob Dole. Ronald Reagan “couldn’t have made it” in today’s Republican party and neither could Richard Nixon or Dole himself, he said.

The former GOP presidential and vice presidential nominee, congressman, senator, Senate majority leader and Republican party chairman no longer feels at home in his old party, he told an interviewer Sunday on Fox News, which has become the virtual voice of today’s GOP.

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“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas,” Dole told Fox’s Chris Wallace.

In light of the party’s poor showing last year – it lost 55 percent of women and 70% or more of the votes among Jews, Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and gays – GOP leaders “ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year. Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

Dole, 89, represented Kansas on Capitol Hill for 35 years. He was a vanishing breed, a moderate Republican and advocate for food stamps, child nutrition, persons with disabilities, international relief and bipartisanship.

A January Washington Post-ABC poll showed 67% of all Americans said Republicans in Congress were not doing enough to compromise with President Obama on important issues, compared with 48% who saw Obama as too stubborn.

Today’s increasingly conservative GOP shows little interest in compromise with the opposition and scant tolerance for dissent even within its own ranks, as the chasm between the old guard and the tea party types widens.

Faced with huge losses among minorities, the Republican National Committee conducted an “autopsy” of the 2012 campaign and decided the party needed to push for immigration reform after having blocked it since the Bush 43 administration. This year’s legislation has bipartisan backing but is running into strong resistance from GOP hardliners.

Xenophobia may be one reason but another, possibly larger, is fear that enacting credible immigration reform might be claimed as a political victory by Obama, and that would create a conflict between a desire to win minority votes and hatred for this president.

Republicans threatened to scuttle the bill in the Senate if Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) didn’t withdraw his amendment that would have permitted gay Americans to bring their foreign partners into the United States.

Out in Colorado, former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo announced this week he plans to run for governor next year in a state with a growing Hispanic population.

That could prove a daunting challenge for a candidate who during 10 years in the House of Representatives built a well deserved reputation as a xenophobic, anti-immigrant demagogue.

Some opponents of immigration reform say they are concerned about losing jobs to cheap immigrant labor. I was reminded of that last week when I spent a day at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

One particularly impressive exhibit, called “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges,” told about Jews who fled Nazism in the 1930s and were lucky enough to come to America.

The 1930s were a time of economic hardship, isolationism and prejudice in America. The exhibit included a 1938 broadside posted around New York that could have been written today by opponents of Congressional overhaul of immigration laws. It read: “Refugees are at work everywhere in America and every time a job is filled by one of them, an American is thrown out of work.”

That attack was aimed at Jews fleeing Hitler’s Europe. Here’s what Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said last week about the legislation before the Senate, which he claimed would give preferences to foreign-born workers: “This is far, far too many low-skilled workers that are going to take jobs and pull down wages of people unemployed and underemployed right now. It’s really, really dangerous.”

Today’s targets have different accents, different ethnicities, different skin color and often different religions. But the thought’s the same: Keep them dirty foreigners out of my country.

In what was probably his last time on the Senate floor, the ailing Dole, a severely wounded World War II veteran, came in on a wheelchair last December to urge his former colleagues to ratify a United Nations treaty banning discrimination against disabled persons.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been modeled on the Americans With Disabilities Act. Then- Senator John Kerry, also a wounded combat veteran, told colleagues that Dole had come “because he wants to know that other countries will come to treat the disabled as we do. Don’t let Senator Bob Dole down.”

But they did. Republicans blocked the treaty, arguing it would impinge on American sovereignty even though it did nothing not already covered by US law.

Little wonder Dole thinks his party needs to close down until it can come up with new ideas and a positive agenda.

©2013 Douglas M. Bloomfield
[email protected]
www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/douglas_ bloomfield

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