The Corner

The Two-Front War

It’s clear by now that if conservatives are ever going to even begin to roll back the overt, ongoing and worsening lawlessness of the Obama administration, they’re going to have to go over, through, or around the Republican party first. The GOP “leadership,” as presently constituted, is nothing more than the lesser half of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Government, content to munch its cud and occasionally low in the direction of constitutional propriety, and then resume its own modest but lucrative role in fertilizing the “two-party” system.  

As evidence, consider Bob Costa’s piece today on Senator Ted Cruz, and the consternation he’s causing in the ranks of the Republican establishment, who are already sensing the first tiny temblors and don’t like it one bit. Upset the racket? What the heck is he thinking?

“These days, there are are two silos of the Republican party: the regular Republicans, if you will, and the movement-conservative coalition that’s united by anti-establishment rhetoric and populism,” explains Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who has worked for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain of Arizona. “If Cruz runs, he is going to be the strongest candidate in that movement-conservative silo. He’s charismatic and highly intelligent and says what the base wants to hear. He could maybe even win the nomination, and on the way, he’d be a huge obstacle to Santorum, Huckabee, and Paul. But he’d be a disaster in a general election — a Republican George McGovern.”

My old friend Mike Murphy is right about the divisions in the party, of course, and about Cruz’s place in it. (I don’t think either Santorum or Huckabee is going to be a factor in 2016, and I don’t know anybody who does — they’re both far removed from their glory days, or even their days in office.) But a disaster in a general election? As opposed to Romney and McCain?

And then there’s this:

Beyond the right of the GOP, there’s less fear of Cruz. Sources close to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and Rubio tell me that they’re still expecting the Cruz buzz to fizzle as new issues pop onto the Republican radar in the coming year. “I haven’t figured Cruz out yet,” says former New Jersey governor Tom Kean Sr., a Christie confidant. “I think the party is going to be looking for some unity and national appeal in the next presidential election, and if they want someone who can be as abrasive as Cruz, Christie would easily compete with him on the question of who can throw a good punch. If the party wants to win, it’s going to go with someone who can unite us and not divide the party into narrow groups.”

Ok, kids, which side would you rather be on? The side of proven losers such as Romney and McCain, the superannuated GOP moderates (like Tom Kean, who left office 23 years ago), and the amazing one-trick wonders of Christie and Rubio, who managed to kill his career in record time and is now scrambling to grab ahold of Cruz’s coattails on Obamacare? Or the guys who actually want to fight? The thing that the krack kadres of kampaign konsultants forget is that there isn’t going to be any general election in 2016 — not a truly contested one, anyway — without a clear ideological choice between the two parties; winning is winning and losing is losing, and the point spread doesn’t matter. 

What Cruz and Paul realize — and what the others don’t — is that their first order of business is to destroy or at least render completely impotent the current “leadership” — to, in effect, reverse the equation under which the Republicans got defeated twice by a nobody from nowhere with no record of accomplishment except a huge chip on his shoulder. Under the old formula, the notion was to lie to the conservative base during the primaries (Romney’s instantly risible and now infamous “severely conservative” self-characterization) and then abandon it in the general election for a defanging and declawing makeover so as not to frighten the media. The theory was that after some grumbling, conservatives would “come home” in November and all would be well.

And how has that worked out? As McCain, formerly so beloved of Capitol Hill reporters, learned the hard way, all that love goes out the window the instant you threaten the Democrat-Media Complex’s hegemony. “I used to really like McCain,” a close friend of mine and campaign correspondent told me during the 2008 election, “but I don’t know what’s happened to him.” Now, of course, McCain’s back in their good graces, constantly appearing on television and being quoted in all the papers, and all is well once more with the senior senator from Arizona.

So why not try a flip? Nominate the most conservative candidate and then wait for the “moderates” to come home; the GOP couldn’t do any worse than it’s been doing. Cruz and Paul know the knives are already being sharpened for them by members of their own caucus; what have they got to lose? “If you set out to take Vienna,” said Napoleon, “take Vienna.” No wonder the milquetoasts of the GOP are already afraid. Why, that would upset the Peace of Westphalia, or something. Here’s Bob’s kicker:

Meanwhile, whatever the speculation in Washington and elsewhere, Laudner reminds me that Cruz is out there, in Des Moines and Ames, shaking hands, building relationships, and getting ready. “He’s caught us by surprise this summer, and it seems like he’s just beginning. Some Republicans may not like this development, but we’re all paying attention.”

I bet they are. Because, this time, the road to Vienna passes right through Washington, D.C.

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