The Spectacle Blog

Conservatives vs. Conservatives

By on 10.20.06 | 10:39AM

The NY Times has an article today on one of its favorite topics: conservative infighting. The gist of this particular piece is that conservatives are already debating which wing of the movement is most to blame for the current predicament of the Republican Party. Is it the free spenders? Is it the internationally adventurous neoconservatives? Is it the religious right? Did the party turn off its base by not being firmer on immigration? Or did it alienate other voters by being too anti-immigrant?

I think my favorite part of the article was this closing quote from Newt Gingrich:

"I would rather have a movement active enough to bite itself rather than a movement so moribund it didn't realize it was irritated."

In keeping with tradition, I want to take issue with this:

William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard and another prominent advocate of the invasion, said he doubted that soaring spending was turning off as many voters as tax-cutters like Mr. Norquist or Mr. Armey suggested.

"The spending bill that was supposedly going to destroy the Republican Party was the Medicare drug bill," he said. "I have heard almost no one talk about it one way or the other."

A few things. First, he's kidding, right? He hasn't heard anyone talk about the prescription drug bill? Second, I don't think any single spending bill was going to imperil Republicans, but rather, an accumulated six-year record of runaway spending that now rivals the Johnson era. In 2004, there was plenty of conservative angst over spending, but the prospect of putting John Kerry in charge of the War on Terror was itself enough to make conservatives vote for President Bush. Republicans not only got a reprieve, but another two years to do something about their spending habit. Instead, they went on a post-Katrina spending spree, passed the pork-laden energy and transportation bills, and doled out money for the Bridge to Nowhere, along with tens of thousands of other earmarks. So for Kristol to single out one bill and say spending hasn't had an impact is just absurd.

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