Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Specter Debate

Ramesh Ponnuru addresses Hugh Hewitt's arguments head on.

Hewitt is quite right to point out that passing over Specter would be portrayed in the press as an act of intolerance. He is also quite right to say that conservatives should not act in ways that gratuitously hand liberals their talking points. But whether this act is gratuitous is of course what is at issue. And I'm sure that Hewitt knows that liberals will have Republican intolerance among their talking points regardless. (For the press, conservatives can only "overreach" on social issues; they never just "reach," or underreach.) As the Specter debate plays out in the press, it may marginally increase the plausibility of that talking point. Conservatives may reasonably conclude that it is still worth trying to get a better chairman - and resolve to fight any misleading spin that results. That effort would be helped if Hewitt weren't loosely talking about "purges."

Like most political campaigns, the one against Specter's judiciary chairmanship has its upside and its downside potential. The downside is the risk that moderate Republicans will take retaliatory action and that Republicans will take a hit in the press. If the campaign is unsuccessful, it may yet force Specter to make concessions. It may also impress upon his colleagues that the party's base will not allow the issue of confirming conservative judges merely to be used against Democrats at elections: It also expects the senators to deliver between elections. is not just to be used against Democrats at elections but something that the base expects them to deliver. If, as now appears unlikely, the campaign is successful, we'll end up with a better chairman of the committee. (And really, any of the other Republicans on the committee would do.)

I'd say the balance of possibilities argues in favor of continued conservative opposition to Specter.

Read the whole thing.