The Politics of Arm Twisting | Un-American Girl? | Dissent in the G.O.P.

Banana Republic—Forget John Kerry; it’s House Republicans who are perfecting the art of the flip-flop—especially when it comes to holding open crucial floor votes for indefinite periods so they can twist arms and get their wavering soldiers to switch votes.

The Medicare reform vote in 2003 lasted three hours in the dead of night, instead of five minutes, as then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay bribed members to support the bill. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) vote in July lasted one hour and forty-five minutes, as undecided Republicans switched sides or simply disappeared altogether, scared silly of a profoundly unpopular piece of legislation.

Most recently, the disingenuously titled “Gasoline for America’s Security Act of 2005” passed by just two votes after another five-minute tally ran for fifty minutes. Three flip-flopping Republicans—Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania—made the difference.

Under the pretext of urgently constructing new oil refineries, the “leave-no-oilman-behind-bill,” as Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) labeled it, would gut the Clean Air Act, extend air pollution deadlines, limit a requirement for cleaner fuels and curtail judicial review and environmental oversight. The bill so incensed Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman of the House Science Committee, that he sent a letter to fellow Republicans urging a “No” vote.

That’s how Gilchrest voted, until he reversed himself 44 minutes in, as Democrats shouted out objections. Gilchrest feared losing the chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans. He later told the Baltimore Sun, “This was a purely political vote.” Gerlach, a vulnerable incumbent, elected twice from a swing district in suburban Philadelphia, needs money from the G.O.P. leadership for his re-election campaign. That includes a campaign website boasting that the “environment is one of my top priorities.” The Philadelphia Inquirerhas dubbed him “a pale shade of green.” Of the three, Young offered the most honest explanation, admitting that House Speaker Dennis Hastert “worked me over a little.”

Child’s Play—Why is the religious right so angry? They got Harriet Miers, one of their own, nominated to sit on the Supreme Court, but they were so upset, one would have though Miers was just to the left of Chairman Mao.

Religious conservatives have also been venting their excess of indignation at a most unlikely target: American Girl dolls. It all started when the hugely popular subsidiary of the Mattel toy company and maker of the patriotic, historical dolls began offering special “I Can” wristbands, with proceeds benefiting Girls, Inc., a nonprofit organization “inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold.” But Girls, Inc. also advocates such extremist social policies as “safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease” and opposes “homophobia and other forms of discrimination.”

The 2.2 million-member American Family Association immediately organized a protest of American Girl and Mattel for supporting a “pro-abortion, pro-lesbian advocacy group.” Bloggers and on-line ministries sent out heated action alerts, even as a diary on the popular website Redstate.org confessed, “I know very little about American Girl products.” Denny Hartford of Vital Signs Ministries in Omaha wrote, “I will be among those urging my friends to shop elsewhere for their daughters’ and granddaughters’ Christmas presents.” And the Pro-Life Action League considered picketing American Girl stores in Chicago and New York, a move certain to disrupt tea time for hundreds of radical-feminist little girls with their dolls.

Irreconcilable Differences—The forthcoming book by former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett, The Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, is sure to spark outrage among presidential loyalists. In fact, it’s already cost Bartlett his day job. After showing the manuscript to his boss, Bartlett was promptly dismissed as a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank in Dallas.

As a Reagan domestic-policy aide and deputy assistant Treasury secretary under Bush senior, Bartlett led the push for supply-side economics. Now, like a growing number of fiscal conservatives, he’s enraged by Bush’s reckless spending and special-interest entitlements. “The truth that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been,” Bartlett wrote in a recent syndicated column. What we’re witnessing now, he suggests, is the messy divorce.

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