February 06, 2008

There are only four dependably anti-war Republicans in Congress: Ron Paul, Walter Jones, John Duncan, and Wayne Gilchrest. Paul has won 10 successive congressional elections and will most likely have little trouble defending his seat. Representatives Gilchrest and Jones, on the other hand, are facing much more formidable primary challenges and each backed by much of the DC conservative establishment.

The 2008 election could thus result in conservative antiwar voices in Congress being cut in half. And in the case of Duncan, while he has amassed a strong and principled voting record, he is the least outspoken of the lot. This makes Gilchrest and Jones’s primaries of the utmost importance for traditional conservatives.

The latest issue of National Review has a hit piece on Gilchrest by John J. Miller entitled “€œThe Sierra Club Republican”€ [not online]. Miller goes after Gilchrest for getting Sierra Club endorsements and having a poor record on taxes and gun control. Halfway through the piece, Miller announces that the “€œbreaking point”€ for his challenger, Andy Harris, was Gilchrest’s opposition to the troop surge in Iraq. 

Gilchrest has admittedly questionable conservative credentials on issues ranging from abortion to gun control to immigration. Yet the same can be said of many other Republicans who do not get the same treatment from the beltway Right. 

This cannot be said of Walter Jones, however. Jones’s conservative credentials are impeccable. He was a leader in opposing amnesty in Congress and has an A rating from Americans for Better Immigration. He has a 100% record from the National Right to Life and Gun Owners of America. Despite his 92% rating from the American Conservative Union, his challenger Joe McLaughlin calls him the “€œmost liberal Republican congressman in the South.”€

So why is the beltway Right against him? While there have labeled him a “€œCindy Sheehan Republican”€ for his antiwar views, the most complaints I”€™ve heard on the Hill are that he isn”€™t a conservative at all. Why?  Taxes. Jones has a 95% rating from Americans for Prosperity, but he does not have a perfect record on taxes, and this is sufficient for the conservative establishment to put all of its efforts against him”€”and back McLaughlin, despite the fact that he raised taxes while on the Onslow County Board of Commissioners.

The Club for Growth is planning on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars against Jones; they”€™ve have already spent over 300,000 against Gilchrest. The Club is targeting four incumbent Republicans for removal; half of them are against the war in Iraq. 

There is a silver lining to all this. While it is incredibly frustrating to see these few principled Congressmen come under attack, we can take solace that the neoconservatives recognize that sticking to complaints of being “€œdefeatist”€ and “€œanti-American”€ aren”€™t working anymore. That National Review managed to run an entire hit piece against Gilchrest without calling him an “€œunpatriotic conservative“€ says a great deal about how far they have retreated”€”at least in terms of rhetoric.  This is not to say we can expect them to be running any foreign policy realist pieces anytime soon or that they won”€™t continue to find other excuses to purge antiwar conservatives.

In the meantime, real conservatives need to ignore National Review and The Club for Growth and put their time and money behind patriots like Walter Jones. 


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