Bench Memos

Re: The WSJ Gets It Wrong

National Review recently editorialized on this matter (“The Week,” Dec. 21):

Ronald Reagan is said to have told his staff that “the person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20 percent traitor.” Some conservative activists have decided that it is time to add a corollary to Reagan’s dictum: Thirty percent traitors should be run out of the Republican party. These activists have devised a list of ten principles, and want the Republican National Committee to adopt a rule barring party funds from going to any candidate who agrees with fewer than eight of them. We agree with the activists’ principles, but not their tactics. The Arlen Specters of the Republican party have been a declining force within it for decades (which helps explain why Specter himself left). They had little to do with the party’s recent troubles, and they are not one of the most important obstacles to its resurgence. We have backed conservative primary challengers against the Specters when, in our judgment, doing so would pull Congress to the right. It cannot possibly serve that purpose to adopt a blanket rule that the RNC cannot spend a dollar to replace a Democrat who agrees with us 10 percent of the time with a Republican who agrees with us 60 percent of the time.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.