Monday, March 10, 2008

Kristol Balls

William Kristol gazes into his crystal ball and sees doom approaching.

Buried inside Sunday’s papers was a noteworthy election result. In a special election to replace former Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, first-time Democratic candidate Bill Foster emerged victorious. George Bush easily carried the district in 2004, as has every recent G.O.P. presidential candidate.

This Democratic pickup suggests that, for now, we’re in an electoral environment more like 2006 than 2004. Foster’s eight-percentage-point improvement on John Kerry’s 2004 performance in the district mirrors the general shift in the electorate from 2004, when Bush won and the Republicans held Congress, to 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress and ran on average about eight points ahead of the G.O.P. Most surveys have shown the Democrats retaining that sizable advantage over the last 16 months. Saturday’s special election would appear to confirm these polls.

This isn’t encouraging for G.O.P. prospects in 2008. Nor is this: It’s rare for a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House. The only time it’s been done since World War II was in 1988. Then the incumbent, Ronald Reagan, had a job approval rating on Election Day in the high 50s. George Bush looks likely to remain stuck in the 30s. Factor in the prospect of a recession (the bad housing and job market reports at the end of last week were politically chilling) and the fact that a large majority already thinks the country’s going in the wrong direction. Add to the mix a huge turnout so far in the Democratic presidential primaries, far above that for the Republican contests, even when both parties still had competitive races.

As former Obama foreign policy adviser Samantha Power would say: Ergh!

His solution? More doom!

Trumpet John McCain’s “record of independence” — which has so far done nothing but piss off the right wing — and remind voters that he was right all along about the “surge.” That’s a great idea; remind the voters once again of the worst foreign policy decision since the Gulf of Tonkin. He also suggests that the Republicans “mock the narcissism of the Obama supporters, who think they’re the ones we’ve been waiting for — by pointing out that their contemporaries serving in the armed forces are the ones making real sacrifices on our behalf.” Given that most of the people who whooped us into this disastrous war are people like Mr. Kristol, his buddies in the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, and the rest of the neocons in the administration who treated the military like cannon fodder, sent them into the war woefully under-equipped, and failed the wounded miserably when they came back, he’s got a lot of balls to even bring that up.

It also strikes me as odd that Mr. Kristol, after saying that there’s been a shift in the electorate similar to what happened in 2006, thinks the remedy is more of what the voters obviously rejected: more war and more right-wing bluster and fear-mongering. He calls on John McCain to make a “bold” choice for vice president by choosing someone like Joe Lieberman (seeing “Joe Lieberman” and “bold” in the same sentence is as jarring as seeing “Richard Simmons” along with “paternity suit”) or General David Petraeus… or even Clarence Thomas or some other “unorthodox possibility.” (Yeah, I hear Ted Nugent is available.) It makes you wonder whether or not he even reads what he writes… or thinks about it. And if he does, all he is doing is proving the definition of fanatical insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.