AIRBRUSHED OUT OF ALL PHOTOS IN THE PARTY ARCHIVES
Peggy Noonan today, writing about the volatility in the GOP presidential polls:
What it appears we are seeing is a new iteration of the age-old split between the grassroots and a perceived GOP establishment. It is like split between the Goldwater forces and the Eastern Rockefeller wing of the party in the 1960s. It is an update of the split between the Buchanan brigades and the establishment in 1992. It is the old True Conservative versus Ambivalent Accomodationist split.
Actually it's more a wound than a split, and the only one who healed it in our time was Ronald Reagan.
Nonsense. Just among presidential candidates -- just among presidents -- George W. Bush unified the hell out of Peggy's people. They cheered and wept and pumped their fists when he talked through a bullhorn or landed in a plane on an aircraft carrier. Noonan herself captured the feeling just after the 2004 election, when she approvingly quoted a military man saying of Bush, "he's got two of 'em," a remark she says she delightedly repeated to Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, who apparently was also delighted. Yeah, I think that guy brought this party together.
But all Noonan will say today is this, referring to the healing powers of Reagan:
The healing lasted roughly a quarter-century, until the second Bush administration, when everything began to come apart again. The GOP was now a party split on spending, immigration, a dozen other issues. It was rocked even more than it knew by the crash of 2008, and further sundered.
It's as if Bush's first term never happened. And of course she says this, because even Republicans know in their heart of hearts that Bush busted the budget and stumbled from foreign policy disaster to foreign policy disaster, 9/11 to Tora Bora to hanged bodies on a Fallujah bridge to Abu Ghraib, and they all -- all -- cheered him on. You can't blame them for not wanting to acknowledge this.
The main point of Noonan's column is that Newt Gingrich is not even potentially a Republican unifier in the Reagan mold -- but, of course, he was a unifier of the party until his speakership fell apart, even when he was blaming the crime of a child murderer on liberalism and equating Democratic policies with Woody Allen's love life. I don't recall anyone in the GOP complaining, as long as he was on top. (That's the same thing that happened with Bush, of course. Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.)
And, of course, Rush Limbaugh has united the party for more than two decades, and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have united it for a decade and a half -- until recently, when some Republicans have begun to question whether their de facto co-chairing of the party is responsible for the embarrassments of the current campaign. All three of these guys have had a hell of a ride, though. Maybe it's because they just throw bombs from the sidelines -- they never actually run for anything. Hey, Peg, you want a united party? Maybe all Republicans should follow that example, and leave elected office to the rest of us.