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Is Kristol Right?

Jon Chait quotes Bill Kristol's column, and I think Jon's inference--that Kristol is not an intellectual but rather a GOP hack--is spot-on. Jon notes:

Kristol is saying that Republicans should raise objections about the speed of legislation, pick fights, point to foreign policy -- but not because they actually care about the speed of the legislative process or the other fights they're going to pick. It will all be a pretext to stop Obama's agenda.

Meanwhile, in a terrific blog post, Patrick Ruffini very nicely outlines how the GOP has descended into the party of Joe-the-plumber (see Chris for more). Substantively, Ruffini departs from Kristol in arguing that the GOP should pursue a positive, forward-looking agenda that tries to address issues of concern facing ordinary Americans.

It's hard not to sympathize with Ruffini, but I fear that in purely political terms, Kristol is correct. The current Republicans party has indeed come to resemble a pathetic joke, and it would certainly be nice if it decided to develop smart and creative policies. It would also be wonderful if Republican voters were attracted to less irresponsible politicians. But the fact remains that the Republican party needs Obama to fail, at any cost. The Republicans had--and still have--no reason to go along with the president, politically speaking (certain Republican officeholders, because of their states or districts, very well may have reason to). Any peace or harmony in Washington is going to be credited to Obama and the Democrats because they are in control. When the Iraq war went badly, no one blamed the Democratic party even though a sizeable amount of the Congreessional Democratic Caucus voted to authorize military action. 

Most voters are not paying that much attention right now (are they ever?). The Democrats have huge Congreessional majorities, a popular president, and demographic advantages that are only going to become more overwhelming. What the right needs, most of all, is for President Obama to fail. If he succeeds, nothing else matters: The Republicans will be in for many, many years in the wilderness. For this reason, I think the Kristol route is the only way forward for Republicans if they want to regain power in the near future. 

--Isaac Chotiner