The Art of Political Doublespeak

Kids, don’t try this home. This is only for skilled political professionals with years of practice in keeping a straight face.

To a political novice, the record growth in government, federal spending and deficits, not to mention creation of the largest entitlement program since the Great Society, under conservative Republicans would seem a contradiction to _ perhaps more accurately, a flat-out repudiation of _ fundamental conservative GOP principles.

But you would be wrong. And all this week, emissaries from the Republican congressional leadership will be hitting the local airwaves and the usual circuit of conservative talk shows to tell you just how wrong you are.

What brought this seeming heresy from old-time Republican religion to a head was the unwillingness of the Republican congressional leadership to come up with a way to pay for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita other than to just keep on borrowing.

To a political amateur, this would seem like a failure in governance.

Au contraire, says House Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas. Katrina and Rita have “introduced a valuable forum to promote the triumph of our ideas and solutions for government over the crumbling and outdated policies of the Democratic-controlled Congresses of past decades,” he writes.

The federal budget is in good shape, he says, because, “After 11 years of Republican majority we pared it down pretty good.” This is close to delusional.

In those 11 years, total federal spending has gone up more than $1 trillion and discretionary spending, which Congress directly controls, has gone up $420 billion. The Bush-friendly think tanks, Heritage and Cato, note that both federal spending and the size of the federal government have increased by a third since the Republican president took office.

One way to pay for the cleanup is to offset the costs elsewhere in the budget, but DeLay said no one had come up with any offsets. Actually, someone had _ the more than 100 members, mostly young backbenchers, of the House Republican Study Committee. They came up with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of offsets. Most of them were politically undoable, but several of them _ notably, delaying the Medicare prescription-drug benefit and delaying or forgoing the individual pork projects in the highway bill, two pet leadership projects _ were all too politically doable.

House Republican elders summoned the head of the study committee, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, to a closed-door thrashing that columnist Robert Novak compared to the Inquisition’s treatment of heretics. Pence has been silent about offsets since.

Kids, if you don’t see this as a “triumph,” well, you just haven’t been practicing hard enough.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)