On Brent Bozell's WaPost Op-Ed

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 09, 2008 3:42 PM
It has been observed that the WaPost tends to only publish conservatives' op-eds when they are attacking other conservatives -- or at least -- attacking other Republicans.  Brent Bozell's column today on John McCain is no exception.

To hear Bozell tell it, every election won by a Republican in the last twenty-five years has been because of conservatives' support -- and every election a Republican has lost in the last twenty-five years has been because the GOP took conservatives for granted. 

While I agree that conservative turnout is vital, a multitude of factors are involved in determining the outcome of any election.   For example, though George H.W. Bush was certainly hurt in a major way by breaking his "no new tax pledge", he might still have won in 1992 had Ross Perrot not entered the race.  And while George W. Bush did earn the support of conservatives in 2000, he still lost the popular vote that year.

Bozell goes on to say there was a fresh crop of conservatives running for president in 1996, but that the Republican establishment chose Bob Dole, any way.  While we can probably all agree Dole was a bad choice, Bozell neglects to mention that the alternatives to Dole in '96 were not particularly impressive (neither Steve Forbes nor Pat Buchanan had ever been elected to anything -- and Phil Gramm's campaign, for whatever reason -- never took off.  ... And Dan Qualyle?  Enough said). 

Its not as if Republicans chose Dole in '96 in spite of having a strong bench of candidates to choose from.  What is more, it was Republican primary voters -- not the "establishment" -- that picked Dole by voting for him in primaries (for better or worse).  At least, I don't remember party bosses having a big meeting to pick the GOP nominee back in 1996 ...

Bozell's criticism of "the establishment" is also interesting.  By 1996, the conservative movement was well-established, and the GOP had not been controlled by "Rockafeller Republicans" for over a decade.  Rush Limbaugh had been on the air for years, at this point, as well.  At one point in the column, Bozell mentions that he has worked in politics for thirty years, and then at another point, he decries the "professional class."  This, of course, begs the question: At what point does one become part of the "professional class"?  Does it happen after thirty-one years?

Regardless of what you think about '96, I would argue the last time Republican voters overlooked qualified conservative candidates (with long conservative track records) in favor of a moderate -- was in 1988.  That year, either Senator Laxalt or Jack Kemp would have been much better heirs to the Reagan Revolution than George H.W. Bush.  ... But remember, Republicans still won that year ...

Still, Bozell's fundamental point is correct; John McCain should not -- and cannot -- take conservatives for granted -- and expect to be elected president. 

But his column comes on the heels of McCain's CPAC speech last month, as well as his speech to the conservative Council for National Policy (CNP) -- just this weekend.  Clearly, McCain is making an effort to reach out to conservatives -- and that should be encouraged -- not punished.  

Why Bozell chose this particular time to write in the Washington Post that the man the GOP has nominated to be president is, "the one who arguably least qualifies as a Reagan conservative," is beyond me.  This is the sort of argument that would have been better made before McCain secured the nomination.