Make room at the table

Ben Clarke Political Consultant and Speechwriter
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I have always resented the liberal presumption of intolerance among conservatives – the notion that we huddle around campfires in endangered forests and seethe in our abhorrence of gays, ethnic minorities, illegal immigrants and France.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not proposing we amend the Constitution and smuggle in an undocumented lesbian from Honduras to run for president. But I would at least hear her out. Assuming she could cook.

This presumption among many liberals is as unbecoming—if not more so than—the presumption among many conservatives that all liberals deplore God, guns, uninherited wealth and the South.

These are extremes, of course. At the end of the day, most of us can come together and break bread. Italian, not French.

Having said that, it was more than a little disheartening to read of the GOP’s proposed resolution a few months back. It was basically a conservative purity test; 10 principles, at least eight of which a GOP candidate seeking national support and party funding would have to meet.

They included stalwart conservative bailiwicks like support for the Defense of Marriage Act, opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants and, Principle No. 6: Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges.

Is that all victory in Iraq and Afghanistan requires?

Party elders flatly, and fortunately, rejected the resolution weeks ago.

The terse checklist was offensive not only in its narrow-minded simplicity, but in its preclusion of otherwise qualified candidates from carrying the dimming Republican torch. These are complex issues; issues that require—at the very least—some complexity of thought and circumstantial consideration.

There is so much about the party I don’t understand these days:

  • Glenn Beck: Keith Olbermann is arrogant and insufferable, but Glenn Beck is certifiably insane. Like, Australia penal-colony insane. Yet, it is borderline felonious for an elected Republican to go on the record and disagree with him.
  • Guns at town halls: Last summer, many outraged constituents toted handguns to health care town hall meetings across America. Legal? Yes. Logical? No. Why on earth would they bring a gun to a public forum discussing health care? And why didn’t elected Republicans across America issue public denunciations? I support gun rights and the NRA, but these folks should have been public-optioned to the nearest insane asylum.
  • Birthers: Legions of Republicans—Birthers—continue to insist that Barack Obama was born abroad, is not a legal U.S. citizen, and is thus ineligible to be president of the United States. They giddily deprecate his middle name—Hussein—at rallies. Still others spend their days dressing up as revolutionary Tea Party patriots and castigating him as an evil socialist. Shouldn’t you be at work?
  • DADT: A good friend and fellow intern years ago at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. – Ivy League educated—went on to become an Officer in the Army. A gifted Arabic linguist at Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., he coveted wartime deployment to Afghanistan. By sheer and utterly innocuous happenstance, he was discovered to be gay. He was discharged immediately. If many Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) have their druthers, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will remain the law of the land.
  • Sarah Palin: I like her. The national press handling of her during the ’08 presidential campaign was crass and condescending. However, when leading Republicans are asked: “Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?” the answer should come sans hesitation: No. Indeed, she should wash her hands of the premise. Myriad substantive reasons, but what really got me was her inability to name a periodical she reads to the tartly Katie Couric. Is it that hard to lie? People often ask me what I am reading these days. Truth be told, I don’t read many books. But I can usually muster the effrontery to say ‘Fitzgerald.’ I will even throw a ‘Faulkner’ in there from time-to-time for good literary measure. (I am told she was a hell of a writer.)

Make no mistake, if Republicans make gains in this year’s mid-term elections—as it appears they will—it is due in no part to what they stand for, but rather against. Call it opposition support. And it is hardly a noble platform upon which to proclaim victory.

I am not jumping ship. Believe me. Democrats, you’re worse. Last I checked, HOPE isn’t hiring.

But please, Republicans, give me something to believe in. As the infamous Oriole’s manager Earl Weaver would ask withering pitchers upon frustrated visits to the mound: Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?

Ben Clarke has worked in Washington, D.C. as a political consultant and speechwriter for the past 10 years.  During that period, he has served as chief political writer for GOP strategist Frank Luntz, speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and communications consultant for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign.  He has worked on countless House, Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns across America.  He has also worked on or covered campaigns in Ukraine, Georgia and Greece.