A big tent means a few clowns

The National Review editors are on the money in their discussion of Senator Voinovich’s pathetic performance (or lack thereof) during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of the Bolton nomination.
Inevitably, as frustration mounts over Bolton and the stalled judicial nominees, we’re also starting to hear criticism of Majority Leader Frist. I don’t know whether Frist failed to take measures that could have prevented Voinovich from acting as he did, and I suspect that Frist’s critics don’t know either. But I do know how difficult it is to enforce unity among Senate Republicans. First, putting it kindly, Senators are an independent breed. To take an extreme example, if the North Vietnamese couldn’t effectively coerce John McCain, why should we expect Bill Frist be able to do so. Voinovich is no McCain, but he was the mayor of Cleveland and the governor of Ohio, and he’s his own man.
Second, the Republican majority represents a coalition of conservatives and moderates. It’s not realistic to expect that all Republican moderates in the Senate will support every conservative position. John Bolton is a radically conservative nominee for the U.N job. That’s precisely why conservatives like his nomination so much — we feel that the U.N. is broken and needs a radical fix. But we shouldn’t be surprised if some moderates see the matter differently and resist Bolton. More generally, with significantly less than half of the American voters being politically conservative, we shouldn’t be surprised if conservatives fail to win every battle in Congress. It may still be the case that there is something about Frist that is causing us to lose battles we should win. But I don’t assume that this is so merely because we don’t seem to winning them all.
The last time I wrote a piece like this, I received a number of emails from readers wondering, in effect, why they should work so hard to elect Republican Senators if these Senators can’t combine effectively to win certain critical votes. The answer is that the more Republicans we elect (including moderate Republicans where that’s the best we can do) the more important battles we will win. But no one should toil for the party in the belief that his or her labor will produce a Senate in which conservatives will always prevail.

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