September 18, 2010
The Krauthammer-Rove Axis of Disdain
Washington Post columnist and FOX News contributor Charles Krauthammer has joined Karl Rove, the consigliere of Establishment Republicans, in a continuing attack on GOP Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell. Some longtime fans of Krauthammer are surely startled and saddened by his sustained assault on O'Donnell since she won the primary race against Mike Castle.
As has Rove, Krauthammer is invoking the "Buckley Rule." It was born in 1967, when William F. Buckley was asked whom he would support, Barry Goldwater or Richard Nixon, in the GOP primary for the 1968 Presidential election. Buckley said he'd vote for the most conservative candidate who was electable. That was Nixon.
In his September 17, 2010 column, Krauthammer essentially declared O'Donnell unelectable -- he said she has a one-in-ten chance to be elected -- and accused Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin of being "reckless and irresponsible" by endorsing her. Krauthammer also criticized Sharron Angle, running against Harry Reid in Nevada, as a weak candidate, although he has not yet declared her defeated before the votes are counted.
Meanwhile, Washington Post staff writer Amy Gardner titled her article posted after the O'Donnell victory "O'Donnell's victory in Del. highlights tension in tea party groups." She may wish that's the most significant "tension" at play here, but it's not.
The fulcrum of the GOP internal debate is obviously between establishment Republicans and the conservative upstarts -- upstarts in the eyes of the GOP's establishment. And what's at issue is ideological control of the party. The establishment heralds victory as the overriding prize that trumps ideology and principle. It's what all establishments do. It's in their DNA. It's about self-preservation. They can't help it.
The Bush 42 campaign used the term "compassionate conservative" to counter the Democrat-designed image aimed to paint Republicans as insensitive and uncaring toward all but the rich. It helped get Bush elected, but what it meant was never clear. In retrospect, it's now obvious that it was never about ideology; it was all about marketing. No surprise there. It's the nature of campaigns, or at least it was until the hardcore ideologues of the Left took over Congress and the White House. In opposition to the Leftists, conservative principles are not an expendable option. Political expediency works only in battles with other expedient mentalities. Hardcore socialists eat relativist politicians for lunch, as they did in 1933 Germany.
When President George W. Bush said, during the advent of TARP, that, "I've abandoned free market principles to save the free market system," conservative Republicans all across the country looked at each other and said, "What did he just say?" It was a Gestalt moment for some. "Where did his principles go?" we asked. Then some wondered, "Were they ever there in the first place?"
The recent and ongoing rant of Rove against O'Donnell provides context to understand "compassionate conservative" and Bush's "free market principles" statement. In retrospect, it also frames the domestic political failures of the Bush presidency. According to "Bush's brain," expediency trumps ideology. It's all about winning power.
Now, sadly, Charles Krauthammer has joined Rove in essentially calling the Republican voters of Delaware stupid. The only possible upside of all this is that the comments of both men may throw gasoline on the enthusiasm of O'Donnell supporters and win new ones for her.
We've yet to see how well Mike Castle loses. Several recent GOP establishment losers in primary races have not been good losers. Senator Lisa Murkowski last night announced a write-in effort in Alaska after losing the GOP primary to newcomer Joe Miller. Florida Governor Charlie Crist is running as a third-party candidate after losing the primary to Marco Rubio. Will Mike Castle endorse Christine O'Donnell or support the man that Harry Reid called his "pet" Democrat candidate, Chris Coons? Will Castle "pull a Murkowski" and run as a write-in?
Politicians, columnists, and consultants most closely associated with the GOP establishment are feeling disoriented these days as the levers of control over their party move out of their reach and, more and more, into the hands of rank amateurs, or those they perceive to be amateurs. The old guard is feeling...threatened.
In making his case for the Buckley Rule, Krauthammer said this during the "FOX News All Stars" discussion on September 15:
I think Senator DeMint is wrong when he says "I'd rather have a party that believes in something and not a party that doesn't." Well, the party he is in in the Senate right now -- the forty Senators believe in something, and it's stopping the Obama agenda.
Ironically, the day after Krauthammer spoke, the Senate passed the $30-billion Small Business Jobs Act supported by President Barack Obama by a vote of 61-38. Republican Senators George Voinovich of Ohio and George LeMieux of Florida broke the Republican filibuster and voted for the bill. Up went the deficit. So much for united Republican senators "stopping the Obama agenda."
There's an historical precedent for what's happening. Although some dispute it, tradition says that on October 19, 1781, as eight thousand men under the command of British General Cornwallis at Yorktown marched out to surrender to the Continental Army, the British band played a tune appropriate for the unexpected turn in events that brought defeat to the world's strongest army. The song was entitled "The World Turned Upside Down."
What is more widely accepted about that day is that the British soldiers surrendered with composure and dignity. And the Colonists accepted their surrender in the same style. According to an eyewitness account, among the victors, "You could not have heard a whisper or seen the least motion throughout our whole line, but every countenance was erect, and expressed a serene cheerfulness."
In this battle within the GOP ranks, let's hope that that general demeanor eventually reigns on both sides. So far, though, we're not there yet.