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Opinion

Opinion

Ohio congressman catches tea party’s eye

December 11, 2010

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— On a midweek afternoon in February 2009, a month into the Obama presidency, Republican Rep. Mike Pence arrived at Columbus in his east-central Indiana district for a town hall meeting, the sort of event that usually attracted a few dozen constituents. Surprised to see the hallway outside the room crowded with people, “their arms folded and brows furrowed,” Pence shouted down the hall to an aide, asking him to get a janitor to open the room. The aide shouted back that the room was open — and overflowing. Congress had just passed the stimulus (Pence voted no) and Hoosiers were stimulated to anger. Soon the tea party would be simmering.

Five months earlier, on a Friday, TARP had been proposed. The original three-page legislation sought $700 billion instantly, no time for questions; Pence’s staff figured the cost would be about a billion dollars a word. On Saturday, Pence announced his opposition, but thought the bill would pass the House 434-1. On Monday, however, other members started approaching him, almost furtively, “like a secret society.” A week later, the House rejected TARP, 205-228.

Four days later, the House passed TARP’s second, 451-page, pork-swollen iteration, 263-171. That weekend, Pence, who voted no, was at a Boy Scout jamboree at the Henry County Fairgrounds. A man approached who had no Scout there but wanted to thank Pence for opposing TARP. The man said that although he had lost his job the day before, “I can get another job but I can’t get another country.”

On Sept. 12, 2009, Pence was invited to address the first national tea party event, on the National Mall. Coming from his daughter’s cross-country meet in Virginia, he parked at his office, walked out of the west front of the Capitol and “my knees buckled”: The Mall was as crowded as the Columbus hallway had been seven months earlier.

On Nov. 21, 2003, Pence’s third year in Congress, the House was about to vote on the Bush administration’s proposal to add a prescription drug entitlement to Medicare. In a Wall Street Journal editorial the day before, Newt Gingrich had excoriated “obstructionist conservatives” who “always find reasons to vote no.” Some recalcitrant Republican members, whose reasons for saying no to enlargements of the welfare state are conservatism, were brought to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for presidential pressure.

Pence told the president he was going from the White House to his daughter’s 10th birthday party, and he said he opposed the new entitlement because he wanted to be welcome at her 30th, which he might not be if, by deepening the entitlement crisis, he produced higher taxes and a lower standard of living. Early the next morning, Speaker Dennis Hastert disgracefully prolonged the House vote for 2 hours and 52 minutes, until 5:53 a.m., time enough to separate enough conservatives from their convictions. When Hastert asked Pence what it would take to win his vote, Pence replied: Means test the entitlement.

Impossible, said Hastert. Two Republican congressmen who, like Pence, that night stuck to their conviction that America has quite enough unfunded entitlements have risen — Pennsylvania’s Sen.-elect Pat Toomey and South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint.

To those who say conservatives should set aside social issues and stress only economic ones, Pence replies: Economic problems are urgent, but social problems remain important in a way that blurs the distinction between social and economic issues. With the fluency of a former talk radio host, he says: “You would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family continues to collapse.” This is, he says, “Moynihan writ large,” referring to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s preoccupation with out-of-wedlock births, which now are 41 percent of all American births.

Pence’s district borders Ohio, which provided the only president who came directly from the House (James Garfield, 1881). Fifty-one and just elected to his sixth term, Pence, outgoing Republican Conference chairman, says he has always thought six is about enough. He says he might run for governor in 2012. The Republican incumbent, Mitch Daniels, who is term limited, might be a presidential candidate, and one such candidate might be enough from Indiana, which has provided only one president (Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893). But if you have read this far you know why many tea partiers and social conservatives — essentially distinct cohorts — are urging Pence to run for president, and why, although he probably won’t, he might.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. georgewill@washpost.com

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"But if you have read this far you know why many tea partiers and social conservatives — essentially distinct cohorts — are urging Pence to run for president, and why, although he probably won’t, he might."

Well, no, we really don't know why-- just as most everything else about the tea partiers is largely inexplicable. They're certainly against a lot of things, but not really for much of anything that can be turned into workable policies that address the many problems we all face.

Corey Williams 4 years ago

Why not just raise the tax levels up to those that the great Ronnie Raygun set? Would that be permissible to the great and wondrous nancyboy? Or would you complain about that, too? What exactly did you pay in income taxes last year?

Corey Williams 4 years ago

No, I asked how much YOU paid in income taxes. Not what your woman makes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Must be horrible to have to justify your existence on a website like this.

Corey Williams 4 years ago

So the reason you can't hold down a real job is mental? Emotional?

voevoda 4 years ago

If you pay that much in taxes, TomShewmon, you've got more left over than most of the rest of us will ever earn. You can afford to pay more to help your fellow citizens. If you aren't willing to pay it in taxes, do you at least donate much of your excess wealth to charities?

voevoda 4 years ago

The evidence of God's blessing is found in a generosity of spirit, TomShewmon, not in material things. As written in the Gospels: "Blessed are the poor." About the rich it says, "it is easier for a cable to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to Heaven." Jesus told the smug rich man to give up his wealth and follow Him. The question is not how many charities you support, or how often, but how much of your surplus income you share with the needy. Many people who are much poorer than you donate a much larger percentage of what they have.

Corey Williams 4 years ago

Or the fact that the tea party only wants government involvement when it suits their wants and needs. They have a problem with a $800 billion stimulus bill, but not with an unwarranted $800 billion war in Iraq. They don't want health care reform, but don't touch their medicare.

Don't worry though. If the voters thought the incoming republican/"T-Pariers" would make any real changes in this country, they will be sorely surprised when DC returns to business as usual.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

I understand the teaparty just fine-- a bunch of folks who've been talked into loathing themselves and spending a good deal of their time defending the privileges and prerogatives of the the corporate elite, even though it entails shooting themselves in their own collective feet.

voevoda 4 years ago

The people who dislike Tea Partiers don't object to their lawful assembly, expression of their freedom of speech, or their right to vote. They object to the Tea Partiers' lack of an alternative program. They object to their dissemination of lies in order to smear their opponents--such as the one that their opponents are "Marxists" or "Socialists." No, the Tea Party opponents aren't socialists! Tea Party opponents want private businesses and a free market. But they want regulations that keep the megarich from ripping off small investors, shipping jobs overseas, harming the public with dangerous products, and pocketing the profits without paying their fair share of taxes. They want the social safety net (Social Security, unemployment benefits, public education) that enable ordinary working Americans to have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." And their modest property, such as a home. That's not socialism, BornAgainAmerican. It's the American way in the best Judeo-Christian tradition. If you are true to your moniker, you should endorse it, too.

voevoda 4 years ago

Redistribution of wealth is not a "Marxist" idea. Marx called for the abolition of private property, not redistribution of wealth. You confuse "socialism"--a system in which the government in the name of the people owns the primary industries-- and a "social welfare state," in which the government provides a "safety net" to its citizens to assure their lives and health. The Obama administration hasn't advocated redistribution of wealth, either--just that the megarich (such as TomShewmon) should pay a larger share of taxes than modest households. That has been a principle of the American tax system for close to a century. The megarich aren't willing to part with a sufficient part of their massive wealth to help the laboring poor. They aren't behaving with Christian charity, even if they feel self-righteous about donating a bit now and then. The vast majority of Americans favor a system which provides for a social safety net, so the needy are not dependent upon the largesse of the megarich. They have voted for this consistently. The quickest way for a candidate to lose an election is to say that he or she will vote to abolish Social Security. Most people want the government to ascertain the safety of the products they consume and the security of their savings and investments. Call this "socialism" if you don't care about accuracy, BornAgainAmerican. Most Americans want it, because they recognize that government social programs are in their interest. And that's democracy, BornAgainAmerican.

jafs 4 years ago

That's a nice analysis of Marxism and the flaw it (as well as any other utopian system) contains.

Systems can only work as well (or badly) as the people involved in them act.

And, power is a major corrupting element (as you can see with Russia).

But this is also true of utopian free-market capitalist ideas as well.

Simply put, socialism (and communism) value the group too much without enough regard to the individual, and capitalism does the reverse.

tomatogrower 4 years ago

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/09/christian-conservative-replace-jewish-speaker-texan-pols-say/

The Libertarian side of the Tea Party is eventually going to get sick of the radical Christian side that wants to create a theocracy, and the party is going to split.

voevoda 4 years ago

The headline talks about an "Ohio congressman," but Pence represents a district in Indiana. Nobody who has been to both Columbus, Ohio, and Columbus, Indiana would confuse the two.

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

There does seem to be a disconnect between the headline (probably written at LJW) and the syndicated column. Whitney, could you take a look at that?

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

This comment pre-removed for using a vulgar sexual term to refer to someone on the sinister side of the aisle.

beatrice 4 years ago

Calling someone in association with a political movement a "teabagger" is not a vulgar term. It is an accepted definition. Likewise, calling the former vice president Dick isn't vulgar either.

Why must words have only one meaning, except when you choose to use the word "sinister"?

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

All aboard the SS John B. Cowle.

kernal 4 years ago

Wasn't the junior congressman from Ohio the one who didn't know Hawaii is a state?

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

The former junior Senator from IL said once that America had 57 states.

beatrice 4 years ago

Boo hoo! Poor, poor conservative victims! Boo hoo.

Corey Williams 4 years ago

Like when Palin said she could see Russia from her house?

beatrice 4 years ago

I thought you born again types believed there was only one perfect person. Why would you take such delight in the accidental slip of the tongue of another?

voevoda 4 years ago

Nonsense, BornAgainAmerican. It's the far-right propaganda machine that claims that the Democrats think Obama is the "Messiah" of "The Anointed One." I have never heard a single Democrat say so.

voevoda 4 years ago

TomShewmon, You may be megarich, but the things you say make you look like a person with an impoverished soul.

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