The Good Germans

For months now Brad DeLong has been asking for the adult Republicans to stand up and be counted. Every once in a while little teasers make you think that it might actually happen. For example, just recently four Republican Senators stiffly criticized Bush’s Iraq policy. A Wall Street Journal columnist described the Bush Administration as “hapless and incompetent.” And when you think about it, there really are no reasons why a conservative should vote for Bush: his fiscal policies are the worst ever, his handling of the Iraq War has been a disaster from the beginning — and there’s a lot more.

Nonetheless, all the above are still supporting Bush. With the exception of Lincoln Chaffee, no important Republican has distanced himself from Bush, and not a single one supports Kerry. A number of conservatives and moderates from the military, the State Department, and the intelligence and security services are supporting Kerry or have repudiated Bush, but almost no politicians have, nor have any of the conservatives in the punditocracy.

This is appalling. Apparently the “grownup conservatives” and “moderate Republicans” value their party above their own integrity or the fate of the nation. They might criticize their miserable failure of a President, but they will not oppose him politically. Some even say that the Iraq War “should not be politicized”, but that’s actually what elections are for: getting the bad leaders out of office. (And of course, the ones who are being “political” here are the Republicans who support Bush even though they understand how wretched his performance has been.)

Why is this happening? My guess is that it’s because of fear. Karl Rove is known to be ruthless in punishing anyone who steps out of line, and my guess is that Senator Jeffords has been given good reason to regret going independent. Any Republican who deserts Bush can kiss his career ambitions goodbye.

Rove and Bush have put together a political campaign which is directed entirely at the lowest common denominator. Almost none of the Republican talking points (which are almost entirely attacks on Kerry) can be taken seriously: flip-flop, raising taxes, not supporting the troops, fake Purple Heart, fake Silver Start, elitist windsurfer, ketchup, WMD, al-Qaeda in Iraq, democracy in Iraq, and so on. (And this is to say nothing of the extraordinary viciousness of some of the high-level attacks on the al-Qaeda-loving, Saddam-loving Democrats.)

But it’s quite possible that Bush will be able to win on these issues, without any help from the “Republican moderates and intelligent conservatives.” In that case, Bush will owe them nothing, and they will be irrelevant forever. We will have a President who owes nothing to anyone who knows anything at all about the world — and God help anyone who stands in his way.

A lot depends on which way the adult Republicans swing, but they’re even more gutless than Democrats. We shouldn’t hope for much.