"All rise for the Rehnquist court" was the headline to our cover story announced in October 1986. It's nice to have Justices Rehnquist and Scalia again on our cover -- and even nicer to have been proved right. Those two changed the direction of the high court, and with the addition of several younger conservative justices, including John Roberts, the late Rehnquist's successor as chief justice, the slight conservative majority has more than held its own, as our publisher and longtime Court watcher and quietly upbeat conservative Al Regnery observes in his reflections on the enduring Rehnquist-Scalia legacy (p. 14).
Perhaps nicest of all was that back in October 1986, in the wake of Rehnquist and Scalia's recent confirmations, we wrote in the kicker line to our cover story, "Liberals are right to worry." Indeed, for all their fulminating and dirty play, they ultimately couldn't prevent the emergence of a center-right Court in a center-right country.
Understable worry about the right remains a constant in the liberals' political demeanor. Even at the moment of their greatest triumphs they can't seem to relax. Think back to the elections of 2008, which left them with not only the greatest president in the White House since Abraham Lincoln, but indecently huge majorities in Congress. Republicans and the right appeared in worse shape than Napoleon's men on their withdrawal from Russia in 1812. So how did the left respond? By obsessing about Republicans and the right at every turn, as if finally willing to prove Barry Goldwater right by conceding, "In our hearts we know they're right." Never has a center-right remnant enjoyed greater prestige than when it came to symbolize the only barrier between sanity and a mad Democratic lurch to the left.
It has since replenished its ranks, which are expected to swell come November 2. We shall see. (George Melloan's deft reading -- p. 36 -- sets the stage.) Short-term political changes are important enough, but, as Democrats are discovering, they can prove ephemeral. Infinitely more important, as we saw with the Rehnquist court, is setting in motion lasting, long-term shifts, and this is where the center-right should be at a clear advantage. We saw just why at the recent so-called health care summit, at which "Mr. President" thought he could ride roughshod over "Lamar" and "Mitch" and "Paul" -- a huge problem from the get-go because he also had the likes of "Harry" and "Nancy" representing his side. But Republicans would have carried the day even if having to contend only with his bullying, dissembling, and pulling rank. The reason is simple. Political posturing is no substitute for sound ideas.
President Obama is left with one argument -- he won big in 2008, and thus deserves to win on the
one issue close to his heart, public opinion and his party's future be damned, not to mention the state of the nation's fisc, facing unprecedented deficits under his insistence on policies that can only deepen the nation's economic crisis.
Naturally, aside from a few harrumphs he had no answer whatsoever to the most noteworthy of the Republican presentations at Blair House. For when "Paul" -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks ("Hiding spending does not reduce spending." "This bill adds a new health care entitlement at a time when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have." "There really is a difference between us"), people are starting to listen. Even at the New York Times Magazine, which on the eve of the summit featured him in its Sunday interview.
Our Phil Klein, now one of the nation's top health care reporters, has been listening all along. This month (p. 20) he introduces Ryan's "Roadmap," the single most important Republican document since the Contract with America and infinitely more compelling because it's less about the GOP's political fortunes than about the nation's economic survival. If other Republicans do not join in this debate, that survival cannot be assumed. A country that continues to commit to one entitlement after another without the means to pay for any of them is not long for this modern world.