Monday, May 21, 2007

A 12th Commandment: Principle before Party

Upon the recent death of religious right pooh-bah Jerry Falwell, Christopher Hitchens observed that having the word "reverend" before your name grants you immunity.* Jonathan Martin drew a similar conclusion about having an "R" after your name, specifically, Ron Paul's, with respect to the Republican presidential debates.

Now comes news from Erick Erickson that the NRCC is holding a fund-raiser tomorrow for Ken Calvert, with special guest Jerry Lewis. Doug Bandow provides the context:

House Republicans . . . added ethically challenged Ken Calvert to the Appropriations Committee, to temporarily fill a vacancy created by Rep. John Doolittle, another California Republican, who resigned after the FBI raided his home (an increasingly common problem for Republican members these days). And the Republican ranking member remains Jerry Lewis, yet another California Republican . . . [who is] a big spender facing a serious criminal investigation as well.

Add this circle-the-wagons, strength-in-numbers, the devil-you-know-is-better-than-the-devil-you-don't agenda to the NRSC's vigorous attempt, in last year's Rhode Island primary, to ward off a challenge to Lincoln Chafee (lifetime ACU rating: 35), and the message is clear: party trumps principle—even when the party is in the gutter.

It's said that cops form a "blue line" around their colleagues when one stands accused of misconduct. This mentality, while appropriate in some circumstances, now infects the GOP leadership. Call it the Republican red line; or, as Quin Hillyer puts it (via e-mail), "Calvert leads to culvert":

By elevating Ken Calvert to the Appropriations Committee, the House leadership has driven its ethics, its message, and its entire caucus into a culvert.

Accordingly, let's replace Reagan's 11th Commandment—"Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican"—with a 12th one: Principle before party.

*Maybe this is why former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who resigned in disgrace after a gay sex scandal, is now on his way to becoming a priest.