The GOP challengers, no matter how they feel about Mr. Bush, can't knock him, because that would infuriate the president's 20% in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere.I thought at the time there might be some truth in that.
The exception is Ron Paul, who seems to have no fear of criticizing anybody, and, this week, John McCain, who in the debate had some sharp words for the current reality: "The American people no longer have trust or confidence in our government. Our failure at Katrina, our failures in Iraq, our failures to get spending under control. And we've got to restore that trust and confidence." That sounded like the beginning of a little rebellion.
I suspect the Republican establishment knows all this, but I am not sure it concerns them overmuch. Why should it? If you are an absolute Bush partisan, you probably don't really want a Republican to follow him and potentially, in decisions if not in words, rebuke him. That would be the worst thing, not being followed by Hillary or Obama. If the latter happens, the outgoing administration can--and will--blame the loss on lax candidates, on a party that wasn't sufficiently inclusive, on congressional scandals, on immigration. "If only they'd followed our lead!"
Digby has a post over at The Big Con where she suggests that the Politicos of the Christian Taliban might want a Republican loss in 2008 as well.
But assuming that they haven't lost their moorings completely, it is far more likely, as John Stokes impressively laid out here, that they know the Republicans are going to lose this election and are planning for the future.There are many Republicans who know that Bush has made such a mess of things that no president of either party will be able to straighten it out in four years and will possibly be a one term president. It would be worthwhile for the Bush cultists, neocons and theocons to lose in 2008 so they could take control again in 2012. It might just work. We have already seen that the Democratic congress has been unable to stop George W. Bush and their approval has suffered. If the Democratic president can't undo in four years what it took Bush eight years to do it would certainly present an opportunity for the Republicans in 2012.
Viguerie especially plays the long game. He has played it so often that we know this caterwauling about being betrayed by the GOP is a schtick he uses for fundraising and increasing the lucrative sense of victimization that so animates the far right. He knows better than anyone that losing is sometimes better for business than winning. Two steps forward one step back is an excellent way to keep his people nervous --- and generous.
This insightful article by Adele Stan in The American Prospect lays out what I think is the likeliest strategy among these Conservative Religious pooh-bahs. They've been here before:...Dobson and his ilk, who, despite their threat, are far less likely to walk out of the Republican Party than they are to force a religious-right agenda on a mainstream candidate like Giuliani, just as they did with Bob Dole in 1996.
The outcome of the radical-right platform that Dole was saddled with -- and a consequently right-wing, televised national convention -- was a resounding loss for the Republican Party, but a victory for the right.
A calculation had been made that then-President Bill Clinton was virtually unbeatable, as New Right architect Paul Weyrich revealed in the double-super-secret-background speech he delivered before the Council on National Policy (CNP) on the eve of the Republican Convention. In 2008, the right could simultaneously accept Giuliani as the G.O.P. candidate while deliberately wounding him so as to make his election improbable.
In gaining control of the platform and convention agenda by threatening to bolt the party in 1996, the right positioned itself strongly for the next contest. George W. Bush did not have to be led to the religious right; nor did any of the other Republican candidates in 2000. They knew the score; they played ball from the outset.
Right-wing leaders may find themselves considering a similar scenario today. Should Giuliani become the G.O.P. nominee, the religious right will seek to exact its pound of flesh, even if it means that the Democrats (yes, even the other Clinton), win the presidency. The betting could be that whomever wins the White House in 2008, whether Republican or Democrat, stands an excellent chance of being a one-termer, what with the economy on the verge of tanking and the war an intractable mess. Add in one good natural disaster, and the reins of power could prove slippery. Let a liberal woman preside over the mess, perhaps the thinking goes, and you could enjoy a subsequent 16 years of religious-right, male leadership after her four years run out.