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Thursday, March 24, 2005 - Page updated at 11:46 a.m.

Danny Westneat / Times staff columnist

The demise of the GOP revolution

This week will go down in political history as the moment the conservative revolution died.

How can I say that? Conservatives control the entire federal government. If anything, they appear set to win even more power at the ballot box. But the premise of the revolution is dead and gone. Republicans have abandoned the last of the principles that swept them into power a decade ago.

They've so lost sight of why they are there that GOP Congressman Dave Reichert is now seen as a maverick for adhering to core conservative ideals.

Reichert, of Auburn, was one of only five Republicans who voted not to interfere in the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. She's been in a vegetative state for 15 years.

A pro-lifer, Reichert said he wasn't judging whether Schiavo lives or dies. He said it was none of Congress' business.

"This issue is between the family members, their doctors and God," he said.

Is Dave Reichert really the only Republican left who understands his job is running the country, not our lives?

So much for the era of big government being over.

It used to be that shrinking the government was the point of being a Republican. Reduce its physical size, but also how it meddles in personal affairs.

Now national Republicans have become the stereotypical liberals they denigrate, using government power to advance pet causes regardless of local or private concerns.

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To remind myself what this revolution was supposed to be about, I looked up the "Contract With America." That was the GOP pledge in 1994, when the party won Congress to end 40 years of Democratic rule.

The contract vowed "the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money."

A decade later government is as bloated and profligate as ever, with record deficits. With Schiavo, Congress has reached a new low for butting in where it doesn't belong.

I don't know what should happen with Schiavo. I'm with Reichert — it's none of my business to even offer an opinion.

But I do know there is a constitutional right to die, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in an opinion by an old-fashioned conservative, William Rehnquist.

And in wrenching cases where a wife cannot speak for herself, society grants authority over her to her husband, as overseen by local courts.

All trifling details when you're drunk on big-government power.

"I don't care what her husband says," said Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "As long as Terri Schiavo can breathe and her supporters can pray, we will not rest."

I am a husband. Someday I may hold my wife's beautiful life in my hands. It's inconceivable to me that a politician who knows nothing about us could announce in the halls of Congress that I should have no say in her fate.

The inconceivable is happening.

Yet the party of personal responsibility doesn't care, except Dave Reichert.

Of course, he's new. Maybe he hasn't heard the word that real conservatism is dead.

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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