Friday, December 17, 2010

The Specter Haunting the Conservative Imagination

A specter is haunting the conservative imagination. You might have thought that, in the wake of the last election, conservatives would be easing serenely into the holiday season. Yet the tax deal that passed the House last night despite the opposition of liberal Democrats, has conservatives sensing the ghostly presence of Bill Clinton emerging from a shallow political grave in 1995 to snatch political victory out of the jaws of ideological defeat. The spectacle of Clinton’s political resurrection drove Gingrich Republicans off the deep end. The memory of it is still vivid enough to have conservatives bracing themselves for another round of Clintonian jujitsu.

Here, for example, is Charles Krauthammer:
“Obama had a bad November. Self-confessedly shellacked in the midterm election, he fled the scene to Asia and various unsuccessful meetings, only to return to a sad-sack lame-duck Congress with ghostly dozens of defeated Democrats wandering the halls.

“Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama."

“Compare this with Bill Clinton, greatest of all comeback kids, who, at a news conference a full five months after his shellacking in 1994, was reduced to plaintively protesting that "the president is relevant here." . . . And that was Clinton responding nimbly to political opportunity. Obama fashioned out of thin air his return to relevance, an even more impressive achievement."
John Podhoretz has the same fears but is more attuned to the ideological irony of situation:
“If Obama wins in 2012 he will do so because of what happened in Washington yesterday. The tax-cut deal passed. The $1 trillion omnibus spending bill died in the Senate because of united Republican opposition. The administration announced its strategy in Afghanistan was, with many caveats and warnings, working. If the economy grows consistently going forward; if Republicans hold the line on spending for Obama; and if the fight against the Taliban and to stabilize Afghanistan continues apace, Barack Obama may indeed win in 2012 because the second half of his first term will prove to be the third term of George W. Bush.”
Ed Morrissey is a happy conservative because he hasn’t taken his eye off the ideological scorecard:
“The Democrats voted for Obama’s deal, but Obama’s deal consisted of endorsing the tax rates proposed by George W. Bush in toto. Not just the income tax rates, either, but also the capital-gains tax rates that Obama insisted on raising during the 2008 campaign to either 20% or 28%. In the end, those tax rates got more votes last night in a Democratic-controlled House (277) than they did in the GOP-controlled House in 2001 (230), and more Democrats voted to extend them than Republicans, 139-138.

“If that’s a victory for Obama, may the next two years be filled with such victories.”
Ask the liberal members of the Democratic House caucus who’ve been left twiddling their thumbs on the political sidelines whether they’d like to have Krauthammer’s worries.  If you're the sort of ideologue who cares more about winning hearts and minds than winning elections, your opponents' politically successful triangulations are the surest sign of success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you're crazy to think conservatives care more about winning hearts and minds than controlling the government. Otherwise they wouldn't go crazy whenever there's a Democratic president--even one as moderate as Clinton.