I Miss Bob Dole
Begala, Paul, Newsweek
Byline: Paul Begala
He stood up to the radical right when it shut down the government in 1995. Who will do the same today?
The government shutdown of 1995, dramatic though it was for the country and damaging though it was to the GOP, looks like the height of Republican reasonableness compared with today's brinksmanship over default.
So much is different from 1995. The economy is weaker. Experts say the economic consequences of default may far exceed a mere government shutdown. The Republicans are much more, shall we say, ideologically inspired--with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in constant, furious competition to prove who's more devoted to the Tea Party's extremist position that the federal government must never, under any circumstances, increase federal revenue by so much as a penny, no matter how catastrophic the consequences. But perhaps the biggest difference is that Bob Dole isn't in the room.
After then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "crybaby" rant about getting a bad seat on Air Force One (by the way, Mr. Gingrich, there are no bad seats on Air Force One) and the ensuing shutdown, it was Senate Majority Leader Dole who stopped the nonsense.
"Enough is enough," he barked. "I don't see any sense in what we've been doing." A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Senator Dole.
Of course, President Obama has been playing this role--even growling the very words "Enough is enough" at the end of yet another excruciating session of negotiation with intransigent Republicans on July 13. But what about on the right? From my vantage point Boehner appears to want to be our Dole. But he may be a leader without enough followers.
No one could question Dole's Republican credentials. He had been Republican National Committee chairman during part of Richard Nixon's presidency, had served as Gerald Ford's running mate, was a key Senate ally of Ronald Reagan, and was gearing up to run against President Clinton on behalf of the GOP. …