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Cal Thomas: Dole-ing out some blame for gridlock

Who doesn’t admire former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole?

Wounded World War II veteran, part-time comedian (Dole once described a meeting of former Presidents Carter, Ford and Nixon as “see no evil, hear no evil, and evil”), former presidential candidate and all-around decent man, Dole was a part of government for much of his life.

Therein lies the problem for some who stay in politics and government so long that it is easy to lose perspective and think cutting deals is more important than winning the argument.

In a Memorial Day weekend interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Dole called the inability of modern government to solve America’s problems “almost unreal.” He said while he was in the Senate, “we weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

In the interview, Dole was critical of his Republican Party: “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

He’s right about positive agendas, but why is it always Republicans who are seen as the impediment to progress? Why aren’t Democrats labeled obstructionists or chastised for advocating policies that lead to escalating debt?

Here’s the problem for Republicans. First, they assert values that seem to be in decline and advocate for a Constitution that no longer defines, much less controls, government.

Second, Republicans have done a poor job of arguing their positions. They are still debating economic and moral philosophy, while much of the country focuses on self.

Third, the public education system appears to work against Republicans, often teaching ideas antithetical to Republican values (hard work, self-sufficiency, accountability) and keeping poor children locked in failed schools that ensure most will live their lives dependent on entitlement programs.

Fourth, Republicans seem always to be responding to the Democrat agenda, rather than forcing Democrats to respond to theirs. Democrats are compassionate to the plight of those less fortunate; Republicans care only for the wealthy, or so the stereotype goes. What could be more compassionate than teaching people how to live independent of government?

Bob Dole experienced combat. He didn’t negotiate with the enemy to see if a compromise could be reached. Dole and his fellow soldiers fought to win.

While Democrats are not the “enemy,” many of their ideas are the enemy of prosperity, individual initiative, self-control, personal responsibility and entrepreneurial capitalism.

Instead of just talking about their ideas, Republicans need to start showing people their ideas work.

I’ve said it before, but we need to start seeing more people who have overcome difficult circumstances by embracing Republican and conservative ideas and values. Inspiration has always been at the heart of American leadership.

Bob Dole has inspired many veterans. It’s long past time for his party to escape its ideological rut and try to inspire again.

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