Peggy Noonan, in a Wall Street Journal Online essay, seems to lament the fratricide taking place among pundits in the Republican Party:
As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party. Republicans have become very good at that. David Brooks damns Rush Limbaugh who knocks Bill Kristol who anathematizes whoever is to be anathematized this week. This Web site opposes that magazine.
Into the midst of this circular firing squad Noonan lobs a hand grenade:
On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
It is certainly the case that the party has found itself being whip-sawed by a White House that appoints excellent judges to the Supreme Court and then buckles almost completely on illegal immigration. Even so, for Noonan to say that Bush has destroyed the GOP because of the Iraq war is quite a stretch unless she expects us to believe that because Bush doesn't have the support of The New York Times and Congressional Democrats that he has therefore destroyed the party.
What in fact has hurt the Republican party more than anything was their failure to do anything to reform Congress when they had the majority and the disgraceful moral conduct of some GOP Congressmen. If Republicans are going to act like Democrats then, voters figure, why vote for the substitute when you can have the real thing?
As for for what Limbaugh said it is indeed hard to credit. Neither McCain nor Huckabee is any more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate since Goldwater, save Ronald Reagan. It may be that neither of them would win in November, but why either of them should be more of a disaster for the party than Richard Nixon, Bob Dole, or Bush '41 is not clear to me.
Both Noonan and Rush need to step back and get a little deeper perspective. They also need to remember that even if none of the remaining GOP candidates is ideologically pure they are still orders of magnitude better than the Clintons.
Thanks to Jason for the Noonan article.RLC