Hey, Republicans, Drop the Family-Values Charade!

Article excerpt

The sorry episode of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig in a Minneapolis airport bathroom may serve one useful purpose: It ought to be the last stop on the Hypocrisy Express.

No matter what happens with Craig's long-shot effort to get his guilty plea reversed, his behavior should put an end to the values charade plaguing Republicans.

It's not just Craig's 15 minutes of infamy. The hypocrisy list is long and sordid. The GOP also is reeling from revelations about former Congressman Mark Foley of Florida, who was involved in the congressional page scandal, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who acknowledged contact with a Washington-area madam.

For several reasons, the war in Iraq included, the Republican brand these days is blurry. To regain focus, the GOP needs to move away from holier-than-thou, preachy family-values slogans, which hold members of its party to a higher standard than Democrats. (The D's, by the by, are also flawed and human but they don't have the family-values mantra to live up to -- or down to.)

Many Republicans say the GOP brand was trashed in the 2006 elections and the party now needs to reassess what it is, what it stands for and how best to communicate a new message. Clearly, the party needs to do a better job of reaching out to secular, suburban moderates and a broader range of independent voters.

Washington Congressman Dave Reichert attended a few House Republican briefings on party message and brand. He wouldn't say exactly what a new brand might be. But bet on something related to freedom, security and a foreign policy that spreads democracy around the world.

Washington state is one of the least-churched states in the country, so Reichert and members in similar swing districts like his district have to focus on practical suburban issues to succeed. Reichert, for example, often crows about his pro-environment votes.

The GOP could stand for a lot of politically popular things that resonate with well-educated and socially tolerant suburban moderates, says Chris Vance, former state party chairman who writes often on what ails the GOP.

"Washington Republicans need to refocus on the basics," Vance wrote in a recent online article. …