THE BLOG
09/14/2010 09:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

George Voinovich and the Republican Stampede

Ohio senator George Voinovich is leading a Republican stampede to claim the high ground in this time of high unemployment by passing a business package that assists small businesses, one of the traditional, most-favorite constituent bases of the GOP. The tax incentives and business loans packing the bill are long time, core Republican issues, which additionally explains the stampede of Republicans in support.

The number of Republican senators pouring in to back this conventional Republican program is "one."

Of course, in today's political climate that defines a GOP stampede.

The package includes $12 billion in tax incentives for small business, as well as a $30 billion fund for small business loans from community banks. In any other year, Republicans would be scrambling all over themselves to not only vote for these bills, but have their names engraved in granite as co-sponsors. Since the name behind this business aid, however, is "Barack Obama," the only direction that Republican senators are heading is for the hills. Bizarrely running against their own best interests.

That's why George Voinovich (R-OH) has the field entirely to himself. Republicans may give lip service to being the Party of Business, but when it comes time to actually showing it, those lips are blowing raspberries.

The thing is, what's noteworthy is not that Mr. Voinovich is the only Republican adding his name to the small business package, it's his remarkable reason.

"We don't have time for messaging," he said. "We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting."

What's remarkable is that what he says is not even remotely remarkable. Near every aching American understands that obviously "this country is really hurting." Every politician is running on the platform that "this country is really hurting." But most remarkable is that for the first time ... a Republican senator is acknowledging what has been equally obvious: That the Republican Party has merely been posturing for political expediency. Sending a political "message" by unanimously voting zero time and time again. "Messaging" to get their political agenda pushed, rather than actually working to resolve America's best interests.

Twitter might be a great way to message when you only have 140 characters at your disposal, but it's horrible way to govern.

But George Voinovich finally had enough. George Voinovich finally recognized that taking the ship down because you don't like who the company named captain will sink everyone.

As obvious as all this is -- the country really hurting and the GOP is merely "messaging" --
what's perhaps most egregious is that a Republican senator had to be retiring before he was willing to do what was obvious and what he believed was good for the country.

As a result of Sen. Voinovich's action, the bill to help small business will now have 60 votes and therefore be able to get past a Republican filibuster. A filibuster by the supposed-Party of Business that would have slammed small business purely for political expediency, just to keep "messaging."

To Republicans, this no doubt is seen as a traitorous act to the party. After all, when there was a question back in January whether Sen. Voinovich would support the health care proposal, far-right commentator Michelle Malkin wrote, "Is George Voinovich going to screw the GOP on health care?" Far more important to the Michelle Malkins of the world is not screwing the GOP, as opposed to the country. That's what's known as "messaging." But then, this is the same person who wrote, when the senator announced his retirement, "I can't say I'll miss Crybaby Voinovich." Really classy. If your class is the second grade.

However, you might be crying too if you, like George Voinovich, were a mature adult, knew that your country was really hurting, and you saw that your party was dragging America down solely because the party wanted to "message." Saw that your party was holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to get tax breaks for millionaires, just to "message."

In the end, it's because George Voinovich's stampede is himself alone, and the rest of Republican politicians are just concerned with protecting their "messaging" rather than helping America that is going to cause them headaches in November. Republicans will gain seats because the party out of power in a mid-term election always does. But when a country is really hurting ... it wants help. And when it sees no other Republican but George Voinovich trying to offer assistance, even to small businesses, the GOP silence will be deafening.

It's too busy messaging.

Legendary studio head Samuel Goldwyn once said, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." The Republican Party, alas, isn't interested. But then, Western Union no longer is in the business of telegrams. Today, it deals only with money transfers.

It seems that the GOP isn't interested in that either. Unless it's upwards.

Update: Since this piece was written Senator George LeMieux (R-Fla.) joined Senator Voinovich in voting for the small business bill, bringing the total number of Republican votes to two, turning the stampede into an avalanche.