Former top Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson is a Washington Post columnist, and there is never a better time for right-leaning columnists to lean left than in the last weeks of an election season. (See George Will trashing Sen. George Allen in the last weeks of 2006.) His rant also may have granted Gerson a seat on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday.
Gerson not only denounced Christine O'Donnell as a wacky candidate like Alan Keyes, he denounced "the childish political thought of the Tea Party." He insisted conservatives were like Bolsheviks. Bloggers like Michelle Malkin and talk show hosts like Mark Levin were "unhinged" against Karl Rove:
While Rove's critique was tough, the reaction in parts of the conservative blogosphere has been unhinged. Michelle Malkin wrote that it "might as well have been Olbermann on MSNBC." Mark Levin pronounced Rove at "war against the Tea Party movement and conservatives." "In terms of the conservative movement," wrote Dan Riehl, "we should not simply ignore him, but proactively work to undermine Rove in whatever ways we can, given his obvious willingness to undermine us."
Gerson didn't explain in this short blog how it was "unhinged" to see Karl Rove's fierce attack on O'Donnell as like an Olbermann moment. (In fact, it was: Olbermann reran large chunks of it on MSNBC.) He didn't explain how it was "unhinged" to say Rove was at war with the Tea Party when they won a surprise victory, and he denounced the winner in the strongest terms. But the attacks were just getting started:
This reaction is revealing -- and disturbing -- for a number of reasons.
First, it shows how some conservatives view the business of political commentary. Rove obviously has strong views on O'Donnell, based on personal experience with the candidate. But deviations from the party line are not permitted. It is not enough to dispute Rove's critique; Rove himself must be punished. The message is clear: The facts do not matter. Politics is war carried on by other means. Anyone who doesn't consistently take one side is a traitor.
Gerson doesn't consider that the anger on the Mike Castle side of this election -- the losing side -- is based on the view that the Tea Party deviated from the party line that Castle should march to the general election undisturbed. They implied only traitors would throw a "slam dunk" election in doubt.
This attitude can be found on right and left. But a serious commentator cannot think this way. He owes his readers or viewers his best judgment -- which means he cannot simply be a tool of someone else's ideological agenda. Some conservatives have adopted the Bolshevik approach to information and the media: Every personal feeling, every independent thought, every inconvenient fact, must be subordinated to the party line -- the Tea Party line.
Gerson wants to suggest that the Tea Party people are unhinged in their rhetoric, and then he compares them to murderous Russian communists. Remember this the next time Gerson agrees with a liberal that Obama shouldn't be smeared with foreign associations.
60,000 is Delaware does not make the Tea Party movement predominant in the Republican Party, or even in the conservative movement. If Tea Party activists believe they can win in a political coalition so pure that it doesn't include strong, mainstream conservatives such as Karl Rove, they are delusional. And they are hurting their own cause.
Third, some conservatives seem to display special venom for those who are "compromised" by the experience of actually winning and governing. Rove, according to Malkin, is an "establishment Beltway strategist." Actually, he is a former high-level policy aid to the president of the United States and the primary author of two presidential victories. This does not make him always right. But it means he has had responsibilities bigger than running a Web site. This is an advantage for a commentator, not a drawback.
Here is Gerson's arrogance on display, for it's very easy to remind the Bush people that "winning" wasn't what happened in 2006 and 2008. Rove and Gerson and their team drove the GOP into a deep hole. This is the spot where the liberals secretly point fingers and laugh -- before they invite these Bushies in front of the cameras to denounce the conservatives. The ending was just as petulant:
In Tea Party theory, inexperience is itself seen as a kind of qualification. People like O'Donnell are actually preferable to people like Rove, because they haven't been tainted by public trust or actual achievement. This is the attitude of the adolescent -- the belief that the world began on their thirteenth birthday. It is also a sign of childish political thought.