For the most part, no new ground was plowed during last night’s Fox News commercial. Most of the questions were rooted in the same typical media premises, focused on the same issue set we’ve heard about in previous debates. The debate will likely reinforce any preconceived support for or opposition to each candidate among respective fans and enemies. And despite the group-think among the pundits on how this was a more “substantive” debate than any previous one because of Trump’s absence, it is hard to say this was a more serious debate than the Fox Business event a few weeks ago.
With that said, there was one very important question asked by Bret Baier that was completely overlooked in the hyper-focus on the horse-race politics among the frontrunners. It was an effective question posed to Chris Christie that reveals everything you need to know about the GOP establishment:
Gentlemen, I’ll ask you some questions about federal spending and the role of the federal government. Everybody always said they want to cut federal spending and usually they start by saying they’ll cut waste, fraud and abuse, but that really doesn’t ever materialize. We all know that.
Governor Christie, you talk a lot about entitlement reform and you say that that’s where the federal government can get savings needed to balance the budget. But can you name even one thing that the federal government does now that it should not do at all?
Baier was correct about the coined line on “waste, fraud and abuse.” When interviewing congressional candidates I would always ask them some version of this question and declare up front that “waste, fraud, and abuse” don’t count. This is an IQ test about the role of the federal government, not just dollars and cents. Any real conservative would have relished answering this question.
Instead, Christie nervously joked, “Yes. You want one?” As if to say there are so many and I don’t know where to begin, but in reality I can’t name a single one.
Christie then proceeded to talk about defunding Planned Parenthood.
Now, everyone understands that funding a private organization like this, much less one under criminal investigation for harvesting baby organs, is a moral issue and obviously should be shut down on day one of a GOP presidency. But they “only” receive $500 million, and that includes state grants as well.
Sensing the sidestep, Baier smartly followed up by asking: “Anything bigger than that?”
Christie answered with the typical non-sequitur, shiny object mentality of a campaign full of empty promises:
Bigger than that? Let me tell you something, when you see thousands upon thousands upon thousands of children being murdered in the womb, I can’t think of anything better than that.
It goes without saying that any Republican must be unflinching in their resolve to defund taxpayer-subsidized abortions, but this issue cannot be used as a loincloth to obfuscate their love for the broader federal behemoth.
This is why we never shrink the size of government. Every Republican runs on feigned outrage about the size of government but is unable to mention a single agency within the Departments of Education, Energy, HUD, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, Transportation, or HHS that they would cut or devolve to the states. Not to mention the numerous independent agencies and offices under the direct auspices of the White House, such as the pseudo civil rights offices.
This is establishment conservatism unveiled. They don’t plan to cut anything from the federal leviathan because they believe in its core functions—except, of course, waste, fraud and abuse.
This is exactly why we are facing higher deficits and slower economic growth than before Republicans won back the Senate in 2014, according to the most recent CBO budget projection. Republicans will spend months distracting attention with an infinitesimal legislative accomplishment and then, with the bat of an eyelash, they will pass legislation that increases spending by billions. We saw this last year when they passed the $500 billion healthcare bill, busted the budget caps by $90 billion over two years, gave Obama a $1.7 trillion debt ceiling increase, passed a $65 billion highway bailout, and reauthorized every penny of the $65 billion+ Department of Education.
Keep in mind, there was barely any media coverage on these issues and most Americans don’t even know these bills were passed. Republicans grandstand over crumbs when pandering to the electorate and then feed the leviathan bacon and eggs when nobody is looking. And this doesn’t even touch the surface of issues pertaining to sovereignty, security, and society, over which Republicans are full of coined campaign bluster.
This is why the electorate is not buying what these guys are selling anymore. They’ve seen the trick one too many times and realized they’ve been lied to. There is no turning back from such a realization.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.