Monday, November 14, 2005

Revenge of the Moderates


Lone wolf McCain. (image via Ethan Hill/ Newsweek)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the House Majority Leader, embattled, stepped down from his leadership position. A sophisticated chap was picked, then dismissed, in favor of a more palatable steak-and-potatoes sort of galactic conservative (That sophisticated chap, we cannot fail to note, shepherded the election of a sweaty mandroid into the Sacramento).

The steak-and-conservative conservative is presently having trouble bringing peace to a galactic majority in the House and Senate increasingly descending into chaos (On Moderates versus Conservatives lines). And, to make things a little more interesting, the electronically-enhanced breathing of Vice President Cheney can be heard trying to kill the McCain torture Amendment in Committee (On the Senate floor McCain won 90-9). How curious, then, would a Cheney-McCain fisticuffs at high noon over the subject of torture (McCain, we cannot fail to mention, spent 5 years in a torture camp in North Korea; Cheney, the bete noir -- think: "dark side" -- of both left and Center, never saw active combat, is playing the heavy). McCain makes his argument in Newsweek for the integrity and essential goodness of the United States here.


(image via imperialmarch)

-- But the Dark Side is mighty. According to our favorite Dickensian villain, Robert Novak:

"Demands for new leaders are aimed at Rep. Roy Blunt, the elected House majority whip and acting majority leader. But critics who want Blunt replaced by Rep. John Boehner concede they have no solution for a malady that afflicts the Republican Party in the Senate as well as in the House. At the very hour that a handful of House Republican moderates torpedoed the budget bill, one Senate moderate stalled tax legislation in the Senate Finance Committee.

"Actually, the Republican Party never has been so united ideologically, but the tiny moderate faction can provide the balance of power in the House and to a lesser extent the Senate. To frustrated conservatives, moderates look like the tail wagging the Republican dog."

Curiously, on the other, remoter side of the galaxy, the Democrats are making space in their fledgling rebellion for the Moderates, softening, for example, their language on abortion (Thus alarming their base), especially with regards to Bob Casey's Senate run against vulnerable Senator Santorum in that crucial Pennsylvania Senate race in '06. The Reagan Democrats in the suburbs of Philly will be, no doubt, to 2008 what Florida was to 2000, and Ohio was to 2004. Santorum, following conventional wisdom, is distancing himself from the White House.

The astonishing rise of swashbuckling Kingmaker Mark Warner of Virginia added oxygen to the conflagration. And Governor Richardson's salty pro-guns rhetoric (very Southwest, that) as well as Hillary's centristish Senate record (And increasing speechifying on issues of morality) cement the trend of the moderate drift of the Party.

"...The House revolt of the moderates killed the quest for new leadership by a moderate-conservative coalition. Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told this column late Thursday that he was not interested in new leadership elections. But he was deeply upset by the moderates. 'It does not bode well for the future of this Republican majority,' Pence told me. Other conservatives were reported as calling on the Club for Growth to challenge in Republican primaries every member of the moderate Main Street group.

"Conservatives to whom I talked were outraged less by the moderates than coddling that did not begin with Speaker Dennis Hastert but was started in 1995 by Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republican control of the House. 'I hate it that the leaders kill ANWR because of Sherry Boehlert [New York] and Chris Shays [Connecticut],' said a California congressman who asked that his name not be used.

"Last week's breakdown in the House promoted wistful Republican longing for the strong arm of suspended Majority Leader Tom DeLay."

Never underestimate the power of The Dark Side. The full story here.

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