With victory in the health care debate and the 2010 midterms in sight and the disaster of John McCain's hands-across-the-aisle campaign still visible in the rear view mirror, the last thing conservatives and the GOP need is for Bob Dole to re-emerge and push to "get a bill signed."
But last week Dole, who has been on the government dole since Ike was planning D-Day, felt the need to continue to legislate. Actually, his unsolicited health care foray informs as to what is killing the Republican Party -- even as the Democrats are doing all they can to implode in front of Saturday Night Live, Copenhagen and the world. Hence, Dole's action is instructive above and beyond the critical health care debate itself.
Remember, this is someone so out of touch with the consequences of nanny government that he actually called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) his "greatest achievement." (more on that and relevance to Obama care later).
The former Kansas senator's D.C.-centered delusion is that opposition to Obama Care is purely partisan -- not philosophical -- and he wants the Republicans to cave in and reach across the aisle to pass a bill. How can Dole possibly miss the deeply felt philosophical opposition to fast-forward socializing of our economy?
Bob and Elizabeth Dole are the quintessential D.C. power family. They have amassed a fortune the way many liberals do: ingesting free enterprise cash they never had a hand in producing and by cashing government paychecks. Perks include being part of the D.C. elitist culture where all kinds of benefits and travel and meals are picked up by the taxpayers or lobbyists. Their experience is closer to that of John Kerry's than yours or mine. A lot more like John McCain's or Ted Kennedy's as well, come to think of it.
I submit the Doles' life is a living testament for the need for term limits, at least for Republicans.
Bob retired from the Senate in 1996 to run for President as "citizen Dole from Kansas" -- supposedly in the spirit of Mr. Smith going to Washington. Small problem. "Citizen Dole" had already been there for decades, picked insider Jack Kemp to be his running mate, and hired the typical RINO Republican re-treads to run his campaign.
Kemp was a great Reagan conservative in the 80's, but somehow being paired with Dole -- or being around Washington too long himself -- diluted him. His political low point was the infamous "Thank-you, Al" moment in the 96 veep debate in response to Gore complimenting Kemp on being willing to abandon conservative principles to play nice with the Democrats.
(Memo to RNC: candidates who run against their own party's base always get killed.)
When that campaign shockingly didn't work out for Dole-Kemp, Elizabeth rediscovered I-95 to North Carolina where her name recognition and residual central Carolina charm ushered her into the vacated Jesse Helms senate seat in 2002.
I say a "residual" Carolina charm because she had been in D.C. on the government payroll since the 60's and actually had not lived in N.C. since the late 50's. She must have watched Andy Griffith re-runs to keep the accent. She was good at it and was a gifted campaigner. There was nothing of substance philosophically undergirding her talents however. Not surprisingly, her lack of any understanding of what Helms stood for ushered her out in 2008. Her campaign was considered the worst in N.C. history by many.
Now if you are scoring at home, the Dole family held a Senate or House seat for 41 of the 47 years between Bob's first congressional win and Liddy's loss in 08. Between them, their professional careers include:
0 years in the private sector
10 years in state government elected jobs
30 years in appointed Federal jobs, some political, some not.
41 years in U.S. House / Senate
1 year law firm pro bono work
That shows 116 years of combined career tenure, 106 of those years in the District and none of those years reflect the typical American experience by any definition.
The only harsh reality either of the Doles seemed to experience was Bob's service in World War II. He was badly injured in Italy and lost most functionality in his right arm and hand. That kind of perspective perhaps steeled him into being a fabulous Prosecutor, the office he held in Kansas that propelled him to Congress.
Once in Congress, Dole began decades of insider existence that seems to have squeezed any last vestige of real perspective out of him. Philosophically, he is now more or less Joe Biden with blue pills instead of hair plugs. The war stole his right arm. Decades in Congress withered his right-leaning instincts.
(In a related story, conservatives are constantly lectured that because he made the sacrifice for freedom in battle, we should give Dole a pass for eroding freedom for 40 years in Washington. You know, like McCain.)
Elizabeth Hanford was born into money, making it easy to be hostile to business, or at least agnostic. After all, it was other Hanfords who had minded the wholesale flower business well enough to keep Liddy set for life. What is predictably ironic is that she met Bob while she was lobbying him on some pro-consumer -- or anti-business -- legislation. It was love at first regulation.
So this wealthy couple, whose net worth has been estimated at 50 million dollars, has never felt the pressure of meeting a payroll, a mortgage, a rent payment or a health insurance premium. Like many who head off to Washington to "do good," they ended up doing pretty well. Somehow, their "service to our country" has allowed them to continue to pile up wealth far and above the Hanford inheritance.
Like so many in Washington, they get their compassion credentials by spending our money and regulating our lives. The ADA is a great example. While it sounds good, the net result has been a disaster.
"This unintended consequence of the ADA shouldn't have been a surprise. If you give some workers extra power to sue, those workers become potential bombs, and some employers avoid them. Politicians bragged that the ADA fixed the discrimination problem. But what really happened is that lawyers got richer, and the disabled got fewer opportunities."
Which is consistent with this example: a highly esteemed North Carolina ophthamologist located a satellite practice in a double wide on a flood plain next to the White Oak River. For two days a month, he brought state of the art ophthalmology care to a small town for the first time.
When the ADA was passed, one key provision meant he had to add a ramp system to his trailer or shut down. Being elevated for the flood plain, it would have cost over 15 thousand dollars. That was more than the modular office. For two days a month, it was not worth it. He shut it down.
Let me translate: the ADA rationed health care in this example. Now how did that help folks with disabilities?
If you live in the real world, all of this is sadly predictable. If you are Bob Dole, this is your "greatest achievement" and you still have no idea how much damage it has caused. Life long politicians rarely if ever have to make economic decisions that affect them. They make them for us and then call us angry mobs when we show emotion at town halls.
Which leads to several scary questions.
If the tiny ADA can do so much economic damage and in fact reduce health care availability itself, how much more destructive will any iteration of the massive Obama Care bills be? Moreover, does anyone in Washington have a clue about it?
And if some influential Republicans supposedly on our side are as lost to the real debate as Bob Dole is, will the great opportunity to continue to make a stand against any of the ObamaCare bills and other socialism be squandered?
And if our health care is socialized, will we ever be able to save any vestige of the free market system that made America the shining city on the hill? Or will Washington simply swallow all 57 states?