Tom, Dick, and harried

"Tom, Dick, and harried" Continued...

Issue: "The Jonesboro puzzle," April 11, 1998

A DeLay spokesman said there were no lingering hard feelings. He characterized the whole episode as "basically a misunderstanding."

Still the question remains: Has the GOP reached a new understanding with Mr. Dobson that will prevent such misunderstandings in the future? The entire incident shows just how difficult it can be for lawmakers to satisfy activist leaders. Mr. DeLay, for instance, thought he should have received conservative points for engineering a tricky parliamentary maneuver that attached a tough anti-abortion provision to a State Department reorganization bill. But Mr. Dobson was unenthusiastic because the bill also authorized payment of "back dues" by the United States to the UN-an issue that is anathema among most conservatives.

At the end of the day, GOP leaders probably won't be graded on individual votes or the number of bills they actually pass. The battle, it seems, is being waged for willing hearts rather than successful votes. His criticism, Mr. Dobson stressed, is not with the failure to achieve pro-life, pro-family policy objectives, "it's with the failure to try." Mr. Dobson and others like him are simply tired of being taken for granted by the politicians they put in office. They're tired of taking the blame when liberal Republicans sit on their hands rather than vote for a conservative like Mr. Bordonaro. They're tired of fighting for a pro-life platform that the party won't enforce on its own candidates. And they're tired of acting grateful whenever the party sees fit to interrupt its endless economic debate for the occasional token vote on social policy.

A leading congressional pro-life staffer tried to keep last week's flap in perspective: "Let's remember that this is a dispute between friends." But as Republicans eye their razor-thin majority in the House, such disputes make them distinctly nervous. The battles do the same to Mr. Dobson, who took pains to stress his concern for some Republican lawmakers unfairly "getting hit by the ricochet."

"Man, I don't want to hurt them in any way."


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