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The Big Tent Collapses

Republicans glorying in W.’s "get along" glow are waking to find their bipartisan fantasy is over. The GOP’s big tent stretched to cover fellow-travelers who were not ideological fellows, and the center couldn’t hold. With Sen. Jeffords’ defection, the pretty parlor game came to an end. Partisanship is back with a vengeance -- and a gavel.

In the Majority Leader’s office, Trent Lott is boxing up memories and uber-liberal Tom Daschle’s moving in. NOW and NAMBLA can expect invitations to the house-warming.

Over at the Energy Committee, New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman replaces Alaska’s Murkowski, dashing any hope of tapping the ANWR. At Environment and Public Works, switch-hitter Jeffords will be batting for the reliably conservative Bob Smith. Expect easy access for the Birkenstock brigades and Vermont-style conservation (Private property? What private property?).

At Education, school-choice opponent and big spender extraordinaire Ted Kennedy takes the chair. His Massachusetts comrade in arms, John Kerry, not known for his support of private enterprise, will call the shots at the Small Business Committee.

The news is no better at Banking, Housing and Urban Development where privatization advocate Phil Gramm will be ousted by Maryland arch-liberal Paul Sarbanes who likes the estate and gas taxes almost as much as he hates tax cuts.

Joseph Lieberman – the so-called "conscience of the Senate" who suspended his scruples to give presidential perjury a pass – will replace Fred Thompson at Governmental Affairs. The Rules committee, previously the purview of even-handed Mitch McConnell passes to hyper-partisan Chris Dodd.

At the Judiciary Committee, nominees running the gauntlet will no longer navigate under Orrin Hatch’s watchful eye. Instead, Patrick Leahy, poster boy for the far-left, will make certain that all the President’s picks receive the Olson treatment – and then some. Chris Cox, don’t quit your day job.

Finally, at Foreign Relations, conservatives’ most bitter blow: the venerable Jesse Helms yields to the prickly Joseph Biden who supported indefinite deployment to Kosovo, thinks Kofi Annan "has done a tremendous job," and voted to commit us to the International Criminal Court.

As Cornwallis’ troops played at Yorktown, the world has indeed turned upside down -- all because a liberal northeasterner who never wore our colors took his party’s tent pole on the way out the door. When the dust settles and the blame game ends, the GOP barons will look for ways to patch that tent, but if there’s a lesson in the desertion, they’ll rebuild on a more sure foundation. Last we checked, conservative principle was the best bedrock going.

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