Jonah Goldberg

The wonderful thing about writing op-ed pieces is that I get ample feedback, often from people unencumbered by the niceties of interpersonal diplomacy.

Last week, I did what you might expect a conservative columnist to do. I told young orphans there is no Santa Claus. No, no, just kidding. (Besides, I'd have gotten a better reaction closer to the holidays.)

No, I merely cataloged the troubles of the Democratic Party. The infuriated response from hordes of liberal readers was, "How could you criticize the Democrats when the Republicans are in so much more trouble?" Fortunately they provided their own answers, most of which involved words such as "hack" and "shill," and phrases ill-suited to a family newspaper - or even to bars frequented by ex-cons. Angry readers recounted the long parade of GOP problems: warrantless wiretaps, the Abramoff scandal, Tom DeLay's indictment, Katrina, the revelation that President Bush is Rosemary's baby, etc.

And that was before Vice President Dick Cheney started shooting people.

Allow me to defend myself. First, fish gotta fly, birds gotta swim, and conservative columnists gotta indulge their schadenfreude about the sorry plight of the Democratic Party. It's what we do.

Second, of course the GOP is a mess (although I would remind liberals that it is better to be a majority party with problems than a minority party with problems). Congressmen are hanging out in K Street warrens like addicts in 19th century opium dens, but instead of Chinese dudes passing out pipes, there are lobbyists handing out checks, golf trips and other prizes from behind Curtain No. 2 on "Let's Make a Deal." The Contract With America that brought the Republicans to power more than 10 years ago is a distant blur in the GOP's rearview mirror. Smaller, competent and restrained government has been sacrificed to the new coalition of Republican rent-seekers.

Compassionate conservatism may have had some intellectual rigor when it was the stuff of egghead journals and think tank conferences, but under Bush it has always been a marketing strategy designed to justify spending vast sums of money. This shattering of the GOP's at-least-nominal commitment to limited government has not only resulted in a bidding war between Congress and the White House on how "best" to expand government, it has also caused philosophical incontinence on the right.

I'm less critical of Bush's handling of the war on terror, but there, too, one certainly needn't struggle to the point of herniation to find mistakes.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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