In a Thursday profile, reporter Jackie Calmes relished the anti-conservative verbal railleries of retired Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman on Obama's politically inspired bipartisan commission to tackle the burgeoning national debt: "Republican Deficit Hawk Returns, Much to His Party's Dismay."
Just as he did when he served in the Senate until 1996, Simpson wielded his own undeniable verbal scalpel against prominent conservative personalities, including Rush ("Rush Babe") Limbaugh"babbling into the vapors"about his lack of conservative credentials. Calmes suggested that Simpson poses a refreshing and worthwhile challenge to the G.O.P.'s "antitax orthodoxy" and lays most of the blame for the deficit on the Republicans, even though the party has little power on Capitol Hill these days.
Former Senator Alan K. Simpson, the co-chairman of President Obama's bipartisan commission for reducing the mounting federal debt, figures that with the country in danger of "going to the bow-wows," he has bigger things to worry about than whether "Rush Babe" and other conservative critics are "babbling into the vapors" that he is not Republican enough for the job.
That is Simpson-speak, recognizable to anyone familiar with Mr. Simpson's way of treating serious issues with folksy phrases and sometimes stinging humor during 18 years as a senator from Wyoming. But this is no joke: The Republican Party's insistence that no real Republican would even consider raising taxes is a big reason that many people believe the president's panel will never agree by December on a bipartisan multiyear plan to narrow the growing gap between spending and revenues.
"Alan Simpson's a great guy, but he's not going to bring along Republican votes on Capitol Hill," said Vin Weber, a former congressman from Minnesota who was part of a younger generation of Reagan-era tax-cutters. "He's always been a Republican that would be willing to raise taxes, but that's not where today's Republican Party is."
That is likely all the more true of the Republican Party in an election year, especially when it is courting the zealously antitax, small-government Tea Party voters. Still, it is a measure of the building concern about the nation's fiscal future that some Republicans outside Congress are beginning to challenge the party's antitax orthodoxy.
After one sentencing admitting that many Democrats are equally adamant in opposing reductions in deficit-driving programs Medicare and Medicaid, Calmes shifted to what she claims is a move by "conservative economists" on the necessity for tax hikes. (Ironic, given that the Times spent much of the 2008 campaign fiercely defending Obama against Republican charges he would raise taxes on the middle class.)
The welcome he received from the no-new-taxes forces was what he expected. Mr. Simpson was denounced as a stalking horse for new taxes by conservative bloggers, Rush Limbaugh (Rush Babe to Mr. Simpson, and not affectionately) and the antitax activist Grover Norquist, a longtime nemesis.
Others of the old-guard Republicans are also speaking out, both to support Mr. Simpson and to attest first hand that Mr. Reagan was not the antitax absolutist that the Republican right describes.
Simpson, who loved to tweak the right-wing, earned a lifetime rating of 78 from the American Conservative Union upon his retirement in 1996, right-of-center, but not an undeniably conservative record.
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