The Republican Party primary so far has been an exercise in none of the above. In their turns, Sen. McCain, former Mayor Giuliani, former Sen. Thompson and former Gov. Romney seemed to be or seemed about to be front-runners -- only to fall back as the party's likely voters got a sharper look at each of them. Even my old boss Newt Gingrich, without even announcing, had a handsome surge from 4-5 percent to 18-20 percent in February -- before falling back to single digits.
Now former Gov. Huckabee -- for the moment surging to the front -- is on the receiving end of withering intraparty fire applied with a rhetorical violence usually reserved by Republican polemicists for a Clinton or a Kennedy. Just as social conservatives earlier this fall threatened (for a couple of weeks) to run a third-party candidate if Giuliani got the nomination, so Washington GOP elites are willing to misrepresent parts of what Huckabee has said and written in a savage effort to destroy any chance he might have of being elected.
It is as if each faction of the Grand Old Party feels a stronger passion to defeat its intraparty rival factions than to defeat the Democrats in November. This maximum instinct to deny victory within the party may be a sign of a philosophical rebirth (as in the Goldwater nomination and campaign of 1964), but it is also a sign of a party likely to lose the next general election.
The alleged Huckabee shocker of the week (for the GOP D.C. regulars in journalism and blogland) is his description of President Bush's foreign policy as plagued by an "arrogant bunker mentality." This phrase, according to Romney and his journalistic coat holders, is disloyal to President Bush and is right out of the Democratic talking points.
There is just a touch of insincerity in that charge. During the past year or two, one couldn't have lunch at The Capital Grille (preferred dining spot for big-time D.C. Republican politicians and journalists) or other similar locations without hearing the constant complaint that the Bush White House was arrogant and wouldn't listen to their friends about Iraq or about domestic matters. Until Eddie Gillespie came in as counselor recently (and started reaching out), the word "bunker" was a plausible and often-used word to describe the White House -- even on Iraq policy before the surge this spring.
Perhaps the more honest charge against Huckabee on this point is that it is not politique to say such rude things in public about your own party's president. On the other hand, criticizing a president whose job approval rating is between 30 percent and 35 percent may not be the least useful thing his aspiring replacement could do with his time and syllables.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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