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For Republicans, a not so happy New Year

Author's disclaimer: Today's piece may cause my center/right readers severe irritability, sleeplessness, and a strong desire to limit your cable television options to Fox. The antidote may not arrive until the midterm elections of 2014.

Fiscal cliff negotiations: a real bummer. An empowered president intent on fulfilling his progressive inclination to raise taxes. An emboldened Harry Reid strangely silent about his inability to pass a budget through a Democratic Senate over the past three years. A weakened GOP reduced to limiting the damage from the anti-growth impacts of tax hikes and the onset of Obamacare.

Missing from the debate: any serious thought of cutting the Obama-era explosion ($2.9 trillion to $3.8 trillion) of federal spending. Indeed, the president's recent pronouncements reflect his desire to use the additional revenue from expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts for new spending. Also missing from the breathless 24/7 fiscal cliff coverage is a rational plan to spur economic growth at a time some economists believe we are teetering on the brink of another recession. Oh, and reform for entitlements (what really drives the debt) was last seen on the back of a milk carton. Maybe all this economic angst was the Armageddon scenario the Mayans foretold.

Earliest (and easiest) prediction of 2013: When the next fiscal cliff negotiations begin in March, the president will again target wealth and success. Small business owners beware: You remain a most inviting target for a president lacking in private sector experience and empathy. As my kids say, "It's just the way he rolls."

Illegal immigration: I know Mitt Romney's hard line is the popular explanation for the Hispanic and Asian tilt toward the president in November, but can't we have some degree of respectability when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws? Apparently not; the Mexican government has filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the plaintiffs challenging the section of Arizona's new immigration law that allows the police to arrest those suspected of harboring illegal immigrants. The primary thrust of the foreign government's argument: The law "harms diplomatic relations [with] the United States, undermines the U.S.' ability to speak to a foreign country with one voice and encourages the marginalization of Mexicans and people who appear to be from Latin America." I guess the specter of mass illegal border crossings does none of those things …

A further irony: The Mexican government enforces some of the toughest immigration laws in the world. What's that old adage? "Do as I say, not as I do."

Benghazi: I pray for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's return to good health, but my good thoughts for her recovery are independent of my concern about her remarkable silence since an American ambassador and three diplomats were murdered at our consulate on Sept. 11, 2012. For years, Hillary Clinton has been a case study in crisis management. So, how to interpret the great wall of silence surrounding the Benghazi fiasco? It seems as though most of the usual suspects have been trotted out (Susan Rice, Jay Carney, Joe Biden) with the exception of the person in charge.

It's been 117 days since the attack. The original company line about an anti-Muslim YouTube video has been discredited. A compliant mainstream media has naturally failed to press the case. And an election has been successfully delivered to the liberal media's chosen candidate. But an initially concerned and now suspicious America has a right to demand answers. Ms. Clinton must now step up prior to leaving office. Besides the general public, the families of four dead American heroes deserve to learn the unvarnished truth about that ill-fated day.

Secular culture: Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee proclaimed a "holiday tree" at his state's annual lighting event; the administration of a North Carolina community college rewrote an advertisement for a student Christmas tree sale (profits to be given to charity), replacing "Christmas" with "holiday"; the UC Berkeley (where else?) student senate wants to ban the Salvation Army's collection boxes from its campus due to the group's alleged anti-gay bias; and an Arkansas atheist group successfully blocked the scheduled field trip of a Little Rock elementary school to a production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (seems Linus' reading of Scripture sent the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers over the top).

Tidings of comfort (if not joy) to the relatively few of us conservatives/libertarians remaining in the Free State: "This too shall pass." Not soon enough.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is ehrlichcolumn@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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