Friday, October 13, 2006

Five quick points about the conservative tantrum

1. I think most on the Right accepted that compromise was necessary. What aggravates us is that the Bush administration has been inept at the art of the deal. It capitulates on some issues but never gets the quid pro quo that allows it to achieve any of its conservative objectives.

2. On some of the biggest issues, the administration's actions have not matched its rhetoric. Take the revelations about secret operations in the War on Terror. The right was outraged. I suspect that a majority of Americans are opposed to intelligence officials who break their oaths and leak secrets to the Times and the Post. Yet, there is no indication that Bush and his appointees are serious about dealing with the arrogant bureaucrats who broke the law.

Net message of #1 and #2: The Bush style is to placate his enemies and ignore his base. (It may be a family trait.)

3. Given that, his right-wing supporters are in a tough spot. Their very public defense of all things Bush makes it hard to climb down. That is one of the key points made by Gardner in his book "Changing Minds." Hence the search for a scapegoat.

4. The polarized nature of political debate, especially in the blogosphere, has exacerbated this problem. Too much of what passes for debate has been thrust and parry between "wingnuts" and "moonbats."

It is hard to admit mistakes when that seems to confirm the "moonbats" were correct on any point. Once again, this is a situation where a scapegoat comes in handy.

5. Congressional Republicans and the right in general, have been trapped by an odd set of historical circumstances. Even before 9/11 we over-committed to Bush because he was in a peculiarly weak position. Remember, he was a minority president who needed a Supreme Court decision to confirm his victory. A few months into his term, his party lost control of the Senate. There was a very real danger of a Jimmy Carter type of failed presidency.

It was understandable that we rallied to the only leader we had. It was even more understandable that we rallied to a war president after we were attacked.

Unfortunately, in Bush we had a weak political leader who was also an energetic, self-confident CEO. He pursued his own course with little concern for the domestic coalition he led. Worst of all, he does not recognize that political loyalty is reciprocal.

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