No question, the long process has begun. In journalistic short-hand, it’s being cast as this: Should the Republican Party follow the path of Colin Powell or Rush Limbaugh?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in Sunday. Here’s the transcript of an exchange with Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation”:
SCHIEFFER: Let’s talk quickly about your party, the Republican Party. A lot of controversy. Arlen Specter has left. He said there’s no room for moderates in the party anymore. You said last week the party should not moderate. But what are you going to do? I mean, you can purify the party to the point that it’s too small to ever get elected to anything. How do you broaden the appeal of your party, and yet do you think there’s a place for moderates?
CHENEY: Oh, sure. I think there is room for moderates in the Republican Party. I think partly it’s a semantic problem. I don’t think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base.
We are what we are. We’re Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success.
I think there are some good efforts out there. Jeb Bush, I know, has been working on it. Eric Cantor , Mitt Romney, trying to find ways to appeal to a broader range of people. I don’t have any problem with that. I think that’s a good thing to do. But the suggestion our Democratic friends always make is somehow, you know, if you Republicans were just more like Democrats, you’d win elections. Well, I don’t buy that. I think we win elections when we have good solid conservative principles to run upon and base our policies on those principles.
SCHIEFFER: Colin Powell, Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn’t have Rush Limbaugh out speaking for them. Where do you come down?
CHENEY: Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh, I think. I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.
SCHIEFFER: So you think that he’s not a Republican?
CHENEY: I just noted he endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama . I assumed that that is some indication of his loyalty and his interest.
SCHIEFFER: And you said you would take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.
CHENEY: I would.
Cheney is one of my heroes. While it is certainly appropriate for former President George W. Bush to remain silent on the actions of his successor, no matter how much the current occupant of the White House represents at home and abroad that evil preceded him, Cheney speaks his mind. He stands his ground and speaks his truth. When the team’s picked, Cheney’s the guy I want on mine.
The bulk of Schieffer’s interview with him concerned interrogation techniques and whether waterboarding had elicited timely and essential information that saved American lives. Memos that attest to the value of the techniques exist, said Cheney. Release them.
As to the Powell-Limbaugh sideshow, the fact is that the left would like to make Limbaugh the icon of the Republican Party. That is, they’d like to make him the face of the party until somebody extreme comes along who can share the burden. A favorite tactic of the left is to take some figure that threatens them — a Limbaugh, for example — and try to pair it with somebody extreme and with some high-profile extremist act. That’s tough with Limbaugh because he’s precise, nuanced and his audience knows his views.
Still, if it’s possible to present him as the leader of a band of backward-looking troglodytes growing more extreme as their band dwindles, the same purpose is served. The fact is that conservative ideas stand on their own, with or without Limbaugh, and while he has extraordinary ability to assemble an audience, he is not its leader.
Cheney is right about Colin Powell. Powell did endorse Barack Obama and it is inconceivable that a Republican Party could survive embracing his vision for governing. If Obama’s approach is what you want for the Republican Party, there’s no reason for it to exist.