In his Commentary cover story this month on “The Way Forward,” John Podhoretz notes that the modern conservative movement comprises four parts: intellectuals, activists, media, and the Republican Party. “Of all these,” he adds, “the least healthy is the Republican Party.”
Almost as if on cue, David Welch, a former research director for the Republican National Committee, takes to the pages of the New York Times today to prove John’s point. Reading Welch’s supercilious article, “Where Have You Gone, Bill Buckley?”, reminded me of why I never give money to the RNC.
Welch begins by celebrating Buckley’s long-ago role of marginalizing the John Birch Society, something which, ahem, the Republican establishment of the time was utterly unable to do. Keep this sweet irony in mind as you take on board what’s next from Welch:
Fast forward half a century. The modern-day Birchers are the Tea Party. By loudly espousing extreme rhetoric, yet holding untenable beliefs, they have run virtually unchallenged by the Republican leadership, aided by irresponsible radio talk-show hosts and right-wing pundits. While the Tea Party grew, respected moderate voices in the party were further pushed toward extinction.
Come again? “The modern-day Birchers are the Tea Party”?? I won’t even bother debunking this.
It gets worse. For instance:
The absence of a Buckley-esque gatekeeper today has allowed extreme, untested candidates to take center stage and then commit predictable gaffes and issue moon-bat pronouncements.
This is brand new in the 21st century? Really? I guess Welch is too young to recall GOP Senate disasters like Max Rafferty in California in 1968, who could be said to have been the Tea Party candidate before there was a Tea Party. (Rafferty took out liberal GOP incumbent Senator Thomas Kuchel—the Richard Lugar of his time—in the primary and then lost badly to Alan Cranston in the general election, thus surrendering a GOP Senate seat to a left-liberal who lasted for two decades.) They probably don’t remember this, and other inferior candidate debacles of the pre-tea Party Age, in the research department at the RNC.
More Welch’s sour-grape juice: “Dare I say it, or should I just whisper the word? We need ‘the Establishment.’”
Would that be “the Establishment” that gave us used-up, past-their-sell-by-date Establishment candidates like Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin?
I am generally a pro-establishment person, but not when it’s a brain dead as this. The Stupid Party indeed. Maybe these guys should be installed to run the RNC:
PAUL ADDS: I agree generally with Steve’s take down of David Welch, but want to say a word in partial defense of my one-time law partner, Tommy Thompson. In August, when Thompson was nominated by Wisconsin primary voters, most polls showed him to be at least as strong a candidate (and probably stronger) than all of his Republican rivals for the nomination. In fact, all published polls taken around that time showed Thompson to be ahead of Baldwin.
Thompson turned out not to be a great candidate. However, he did not underperform in relation to Mitt Romney, the way so many Republican Senate candidates in hotly contested states (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Arizona, and Missouri) did. In fact, he outperformed Romney, losing to Tammy Baldwin by 5.5 points, while Romney lost to Obama in Wisconsin by 6.7. And Thompson outperformed Romney even though Wisconsinite Paul Ryan was Romney’s running mate.
So if the “establishment” can be said to have “given us” Tommy Thompson, I don’t think it should take a hit for that particular selection.