Monday, December 24, 2007

Clown Hall Is Staggering

I have to hand it to Townhall- whenever I want something fun to write about, Hugh Hewitt & Co. have it in spades, especially now that Hewitt has turned much of it into Romney's unofficial campaign site.

First, Hewitt raves about Romney's two "endorsements" over the weekend: the Sioux City Journal endorsement and the Concord Monitor's full-scale assault on Romney in which the NH paper declared that "Romney must be stopped." On the latter, Hewitt hits a solid 87 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale, saying:

[T]he virulent enmity of a old media tree killer is a sure sign of which Republican the lefties fear the most in November. Had the Monitor merely endorsed a Romney rival, it would have been a minor plus for that candidate, just as the Sioux City Journal's applause for Romney helps him at the margin.But the editors at the Monitor gave every GOP voter in the Granite State a clear signal that they should support Romney on January 8th.

The second bit from Townhall today comes from Patrick Ruffini, who shows just how far the Reagan coalition has sunk. Ruffini's post makes clear that a good chunk of the GOP "establishment" continues to really fear McCain even though McCain is in many ways the most genuinely conservative candidate, at least as conservatism has come to be understood for the last 30 years. Amazingly, Ruffini outright advocates going to the gutter to attack McCain in an attempt to ensure that Romney holds on to New Hampshire. In the process, Ruffini inadvertently makes clear the difference between the Bush Republicans and the Republicans who formed the Reagan coalition.

As if the underground slime thrown at McCain in 2000 was perfectly acceptable, Ruffini now openly advocates a return to that style of attack on McCain. Indeed, the whole column seems to amount to: we can't allow McCain to be the nominee, so let's make crap up about him regardless of whether it's true. At one point, Ruffini even makes this fairly explicit:

"I would envision a series of ads around this theme launching right after Christmas — tease them on the Web on the 26th and start running them on the 27th. Do one on some sort of questionable post-Keating quid-pro-quo that’s evocative of the Drudge hit of last week without referencing it directly."

At no point, by the way, does Ruffini indicate that any of the attacks he suggests are factually valid or are anything short of distortions of McCain's record. The entire post is just an attempt to show Romney how he can take McCain down with little or no chance of responding. What is perhaps most amusing about the whole set is that it is based on getting Romney (yes, that Romney) to portray McCain, of all people, as a flip-flopper! To the extent Ruffini has a substantive point beyond "Let's make crap up about McCain," it seems to be that McCain is not necessarily 100% consistent with his views; if you're going to elect someone who isn't 100% consistent, you should at least vote for the candidate who is clear about the fact that he has no soul whatsoever.

For whatever reason, it continues to be clear that the Republican political establishment fears McCain deeply even though he is far more genuinely conservative in every category than Romney. The difference I guess is that Romney is a straight party line guy- whatever the party says is right, is in fact right as far as Romney is concerned; that's true even if the party line has changed from yesterday. When the relevant party was the Massachussetts GOP, his positions were whatever was most advantageous within the Massachussetts GOP; now that he's running nationally, his positions are whatever is most advantageous in the national GOP.

It is increasingly clear that the GOP establishment, which I have dubbed the "Romney Republicans," doesn't want to elect a candidate with any principles. Instead, they want to elect a candidate who knows how to pander to each of the GOP's primary interest groups while remaining deeply susceptible to the control of the party establishment- essentially, Bush Part II. Remember: the job of the party establishment is to maintain the coalition of interest groups within the party.

The GOP establishment, charged with maintaining this coalition, presumably understands that the party's core interest groups no longer have much of anything in common, and that it is impossible to appeal to each of those groups without a massive amount of doublethink. Romney has the ability to be a complete automoton who says and does what the party establishment tells him to say and do; in this way, the party establishment views Romney as the one candidate it can manipulate enough to maintain the historical GOP coalition. This is also why much of the GOP establishment has turned so severely against candidates like Huckabee, McCain, Paul, and even Giuliani: agree with them or not, they each have their own clear view of how the world should look. Trouble is that none of them (with the exception of McCain, who is still not a straight party-line guy and thus unacceptable to the establishment) can appeal to all of the core elements of the GOP coalition.