"Pledge to America" Gets Mixed Reviews from Conservatives

Members of the Republican House leadership, from left to right, Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader John Boehner, introduce the party's new "America Speaking Out" campaign at the Newseum May 25, 2010, in Washington. Getty Images

Getty Images

House Republicans on Wednesday night released their long-anticipated "Pledge to America" to mixed reviews from conservative commentators. Some pundits reacted favorably, calling the 21-page document an impressive step beyond the 1994 GOP "Contract with America." But others blasted the document as light on substance and short on promises to key conservative voting blocs, such as the Tea Party and social conservatives.

"Is the pledge as bold as the Contract?" write the editors of the National Review. "The answer is: The pledge is bolder. The Contract with America merely promised to hold votes on popular bills that had been bottled up during decades of Democratic control of the House. The pledge commits Republicans to working toward a broad conservative agenda that, if implemented, would make the federal government significantly smaller, Congress more accountable, and America more prosperous."

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The conservative magazine goes on to call the Pledge's section on jobs "impressive" and hails the GOP for addressing social issues by promising to enact a law banning federal funding of abortion.

By contrast conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com says the Pledge pales in comparison to the Contract.

"These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama," Erickson writes. "Like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high."

He contends that the pledge fixates on goals the GOP should already be working toward while ignoring meaningful, long term goals.

"There is a promise to 'immediately reduce spending' by cutting off stimulus funds. Wow. Exciting," he writes.

David Frum, a former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, responds to Erickson: "What did he expect?"

"Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory," Frum writes. "Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?"

The Pledge's timidity amounts to "a repudiation of the central, foundational idea behind the Tea Party," Frum continues.

"Tea Party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government," he writes. "Republicans will redirect the federal government to a new path that is less expensive and intrusive than the status quo. But if you want promises of radical change? No. Too risky."

While Frum interprets the document as a rejection of Tea Party principles, blogger "Allahpundit" on HotAir.com sees a rejection of social conservative priorities. The National Review praised Republicans for mentioning social values, but Allahpundit says it's not enough.

"In fact, here's the sum total of language in the document about that: 'We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values,'" he writes. "One line, buried at the end of the preamble on page one, and according to sources, even that was only added at the very last minute after Mike Pence objected... Think social cons are going to like that, after all the warnings lately about not taking them for granted?"

Commentator Doug Powers writes on MichelleMalkin.com that he's cautiously optimistic about the document.

"I love it, provided the words jump off the paper and into reality at some point soon," he wrote. "Sure, signing off on political pledges is a little like ordering X-Ray glasses from a comic book -- you just know it's not going to be nearly as good as advertised -- but I like the GOP's effort so far."

Liberal commentators, meanwhile, weren't shy in their criticisms of the Pledge.

While some on the right complained the document is not substantive enough, liberal-leaning Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein blasted the document as too specific -- to the point that it reveals blatant hypocrisy.

"The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt -- but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it," he writes. "It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to 'greater liberty' and then, in the next, that it will protect 'traditional marriage'... It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong -- debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government -- and a solid promise to make most of it worse."

Joan McCarter of the liberal blog DailyKos, meanwhile, reduced the Pledge to "this year's gimmick."

She took the Republicans apart for their pledge to support small businesses.

"How convenient for Republicans. On the day they release their pledge, they'll also have an opportunity to vote for the small business bill," she writes. "So here's their chance to get an early start on fulfilling their pledge and actually voting for small businesses. They could show voters that the really mean it this time. Except that this bill doesn't have any tax breaks for rich people or for companies which ship jobs overseas, which in Republican speak is the definition of "small business," so it doesn't seem too likely."

Similarly, the White House on Wednesday gave a pre-emptive critique of the GOP agenda, calling out the Republican party for ignoring Americans' interest in protecting U.S.-based jobs.

This story was corrected to note that the commentary cited from MichelleMalkin.com was written by Doug Powers, not Michelle Malkin.

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Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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