Conservatives Want to See Downtrodden GOP 'Fight Back'

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

( - When John Hawkins wrote on his blog that the Bush administration "has shown themselves to be utterly and completely politically incompetent," it was not another instance of a left-wing blogger attacking the president.

Hawkins' popular blog is, in fact, called, and the sentiment expressed evidently reflects the views of some conservatives and political analysts in the months since the Democrats took control of Congress.

"There are undoubtedly mayors of two-stoplight towns out there that could run circles around the whole Bush administration politically," he writes.

Some conservatives and analysts contend that the party once considered masters of political strategy ready to take the fight to the Democrats - leading to major electoral successes in 2002 and 2004 - have been on the defensive much of this year.

"They can't make a case for the things they support, they can't adequately defend themselves, they have no idea how to use the bully pulpit or how to attack their political enemies, and they have foolishly allowed a gap to develop between the administration and the base," Hawkins wrote in his blog.

When Democrats in Congress howled over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys - all of whom serve at the pleasure of the president - the White House apologized. That's something that would have never occurred a year ago, said Gary Rose, political science professor at Sacred Heart University.

While a few Republicans criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to meet Syrian leaders, the critics would have been much louder last year, Rose told Cybercast News Service, offering the Damascus visit as another example.

The reason for timidity is that Republicans are still shell shocked after the 2006 elections, he said.

"Republicans at this point are a little cautious about depicting Democrats as being out of step with the American people," Rose argued. "Whenever there is a watershed election like 1994 or 2006, the party that loses control is subdued in the short-term."

That could quickly change, Rose said. However, he doesn't anticipate a typical Republican primary.

"They lost the center - that's how they lost the House and Senate," Rose said. "They can't just run right in the primary, as in the past."

The Republican National Committee disputed charges that the party has shied away from a fight since becoming a minority in Congress.

"We've been on the offense, and the Democrats keep giving us more material," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt told Cybercast News Service.

She said the RNC is making sure the public knows that Democrats are "more interested in investigations than legislation and want to use national security as a partisan football."

She noted that the party had bought ads in Nevada critical of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comment that America has "lost" the war in Iraq.

"It's a difficult climate and a challenging news cycle for Republicans, but we remain aggressive," Schmitt said.

Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative Accuracy in Media, is another analyst who sees the Republicans "in disarray."

"The problem is that the administration doesn't fight back," Kincaid said in an interview. "The administration reaches out to Democrats."

That won't ingratiate Bush to the Democrats or shield him from future partisan attacks, Kincaid predicted.

Even though Kincaid considers the U.S. Senate hearings into the U.S. attorney firings to be a "concocted scandal" on the part of Democrats, he said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony at the hearings hardly helped matters.

"The administration is in a really difficult situation when it can't defend some of their own policies and personnel," Kincaid said.

Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, doesn't believe the GOP has been that slow to respond, at least at the congressional level.

Being in the minority has liberated some conservatives to push harder for conservative policies and to block liberal proposals, Darling said.

"These investigations may be impeding the administration, but not so much Congress," Darling told Cybercast News Service. "The president may be playing defense, but that does not mean the offense is not being played by Congress.

"Many criticized Harry Reid when he said the war was lost," he observed. "Rhetorically, congressional Republicans are still tough on the issues."

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