When the GOP’s ‘armies of compassion’ are sent packing

WHEN THE GOP’S ‘ARMIES OF COMPASSION’ ARE SENT PACKING…. In a column on the Republican budget plan this week, E.J. Dionne Jr. highlighted the new GOP approach to national service.

A telling example: The party that purports to love community and church-based efforts to help the poor and downtrodden even zeroed out AmeriCorps, the national service program that has long enjoyed support across party lines. AmeriCorps, remember, gives out small grants that leverage an enormous amount of voluntary work for the groups George W. Bush used to praise as “the armies of compassion.”

But even those unrealistic cuts were not unrealistic enough for the GOP’s highly caffeinated Tea Party wing.

To be specific, how much of the AmeriCorps budget do House Republicans want to cut? All of it. Literally, 100%.

As the debate on this advances, it’s worth emphasizing the fact that the House GOP’s crusade against national service is at odds with the positions of nearly all of the party’s likely presidential candidates.

* Mitt Romney has embraced national service programs, even as a presidential candidate, and as a governor in 2004, he rallied Republican governors to support AmeriCorps in the face of cuts from congressional Republicans.

* Mike Huckabee has offered strong support for national service and as a presidential candidate, described AmeriCorps as a “very good” program.

* Tim Pawlenty not only supported national service programs as governor, he distanced himself from Rep. Michele Bachmann, a fellow Minnesotan, when she accused AmeriCorps of having an “indoctrination” component.

* Sarah Palin may not have been a governor very long, but before joining the national GOP ticket, she praised the work of AmeriCorps volunteers: “These contributions are essential to the state’s economic and social well-being.”

* Mitch Daniels created his own national service program called “Mitch’s Kids,” and also praised AmeriCorps for “promoting an ethic of service and volunteering.”

* Rick Santorum originally bashed AmeriCorps, but changed his mind, and joined a bipartisan effort to preserve funding for the program in 1999.

* Haley Barbour has not only praised AmeriCorps in general, he was especially grateful for program volunteers helping his state in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: “We welcome these outstanding, civic-minded young men and women, and know they will offer tremendous service to people in our region.”

I’m curious, do all of these GOP leaders support the efforts of congressional Republicans to simply scrap AmeriCorps funding altogether?