On Wednesday, CNN published an opinion piece by Hugh Hewitt in which he outlined his prescriptions for dealing with a massive set of problems our country is, and will be facing: a military weakened by President Obama, an expiring continuing resolution, and a debt ceiling limit that is soon to be reached. His suggestions about how to deal with these challenges are well intentioned but misguided.
President Obama has been a horrible president. His policies have weakened our military, foreign policy, made our borders less secure, and are in the process of destroying our health care system. President Obama got a massive stimulus through Congress, got Congress to approve his health care scheme, the Supreme Court approved it, he stared down a responsible Republican shutdown of the government and won, he used executive action to bring about an illegal amnesty, got a Republican Congress to fund it, had the debt ceiling raised essentially on his terms, and forced a Republican Congress to keep the money flowing to his cronies at Planned Parenthood. By President Obama’s definition, and measured by his volume — not quality — of political accomplishments, he has been a success.
If the President wanted to open and endow Obama Clinics in America’s 100 largest cities with a billion each in construction, operation and endowment funds to care for the desperately poor, that would be both a good thing and a big legacy, and if it gets us beyond the coming collision and kabuki dance of a shutdown, here’s to the ribbon-cuttings.
The reason for giving President Obama a parting gift for his awful domestic and foreign policies is that Republicans would get increased military spending in exchange for capitulating on the notion of governing as a responsible legislative branch. Mr. Hewitt’s thesis is that our military has been so harmed by the Obama presidency, and our foreign policy has suffered so badly, that we cannot wait until the next president to correct course in these areas. Mr. Hewitt wrote, “Rebuilding our gutted military cannot wait for January 2017 to begin. It must begin now.”
He suggests that for every three dollars of new defense spending, Republicans allow one dollar of new domestic spending, or something close to that. That math is not sustainable right now. Neither are the politics. President Obama should be met at the negotiating table by a Republican proposal that increases the military while not cementing the socialist state President Obama has created. The right thing must be done — increasing our military — but not at the expense of diminishing our domestic strength by spending money we don’t have on programs that are of dubious constitutionality and increase the debt. Republicans should start negotiations with their strongest hand, not open with their weakest.
Mr. Hewitt also suggests that Congress agrees to a continuing resolution until September 30, 2017. This would throw the appropriations process out of whack in the House and Senate, delay real spending reforms as well as delay a long-term trajectory to bolster our military. A Republican president inaugurated on January 20, 2017 would find it difficult to impact spending since they would be beholden a continuing resolution from the Obama presidency. All because some want a grand bargain that disadvantages conservative policies so that a tough fight with an outgoing president can be avoided.
Our military does need to be rebuilt. It does not have to happen on President Obama’s terms, at the expense of eviscerating our economy, permanently damaging the ability of Republicans and conservatives to be effective negotiators, and entrenching the welfare state designed by President Obama. Mr. Hewitt’s suggestion boils down to this: “Because he is President Obama, he needs a win, a football to spike. Because the GOP is the responsible party, it should give it to him.”
That is governing scared, and with shortsightedness. The notion that we should bribe the president into agreeing to allow Republicans to fund the military in a responsible way puts Republicans in a position of weakness. President Obama will exploit that weakness, as he has before, to get even more concessions from a Republican Congress that will be even more disastrous for the country.
If the past is any indication, President Obama will demand far more than Mr. Hewitt is willing to concede in his opinion piece, which is already quite a bit. Using the past as a guide, President Obama will likely get what he wants. Republicans will likely not.
Even if President Obama would agree to Republican demands regarding the military, there is no guarantee that the president will actually now carry out his promises. Remember, President Obama has governed through obfuscation aided by executive action. Expect him to do the same to any Republican proposal to make our military strong.
Mr. Hewitt rightly points out that our military weakness is a problem for our country. It is one that cannot be understated. As part of his grand bargain solution, Mr Hewitt proposes an increase in the debt ceiling. He would be wise to remember the words of Adm. Mike Mullen, who explained when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “the most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” Mr. Hewitt’s idea would (possibly) address one threat to our national security — our military weakness — at the expense of compounding another threat to our national security by increasing the debt ceiling. Clearly this proposal isn’t viable.
Republicans need to regain their strength and propose a conservative plan to address the many challenges that are ahead in the next few weeks and months. That may be happening in the next few days with the House leadership races. It it does, Republicans will be in a position to negotiate with President Obama and make the United States stronger. There are conservative voices in Congress that can be the happy warriors to negotiate with President Obama and promote conservative solutions to our problems. We need to promote them and their ideas, not melancholy defeatism.
Republicans should not turn to Speaker Boehner to help us out of this jam we are in, and in the process, weaken the future of conservative governing with a weak negotiation position in discussions with President Obama. Republicans should instead be focusing on the change in party leadership that is imminent in the House, as well as legislating and negotiating as confident conservatives. Trading one national security threat, the weakened state of our military, for another national security threat, our increasing debt, isn’t the way to solve our current problems. Conservatives can do better. If given the chance, they will.
Neil Siefring is president of Hilltop Advocacy, LLC, and a former Republican House staffer. His opinions are his own. Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilSiefring