A fight on the right: Do Republicans "deserve" to lose?

Rush Limbaugh squares off against InstaPundit.

Published October 19, 2006 7:43PM (EDT)

Having seen more than a few of the Democrats' biennial circular firing squads -- and fully aware that we could be back in the middle of one on the morning of Nov. 8 -- we can't say we mind being on the outside looking in for a change. Our favorite vantage point: any spot from which we can watch the ongoing family feud between InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds and our old friend Rush Limbaugh.

Here's the condensed version (and trust us, despite the length, it's extremely condensed):

Glenn Reynolds, "A GOP Pre-Mortem," Oct. 14: "So is it over for the GOP majorities in Congress? It's still too early to say, I guess, but when even John Hinderaker is sounding extremely gloomy, that's certainly the way to bet. So I want to stress, for the edification of any Republican leaders who might pay attention, that this is the result of a series of unforced errors on their part. Following is a (partial) list: The Terri Schiavo affair ... the Harriet Miers debacle ... the Dubai Ports disaster ... immigration ... William Jefferson ... is caught in a bribery scandal with a freezer full of cash, and Dennis Hastert backs him up ... Foleygate ... As I've said before, the Republicans deserve to lose, though alas the Democrats don't really deserve to win, either."

Rush Limbaugh, Oct. 16: "The term GOP 'premortem,' I don't know who used it first, but a couple of other bloggers and stuff just think it's cool ... One of them is ... Glenn Reynolds. What's his place? Instant Pundit? I'm not sure, but here's his analysis: 'If the GOP Goes Down, It's Because It Had It Coming' ... What kind of a fool reason is it to suggest that if the Republicans lose, it's because they had it coming? Do Democrats have nothing coming? ... Even if you believe Republicans deserve to lose, let me ask you, do you deserve to lose? Does the country deserve a cut-and-run policy in the war on terror? Do the 3,000 brave souls who have lost their lives in the war on terror deserve to have the rug pulled out from under their mission? Do they deserve that? Do you deserve higher taxes? Do you deserve increased gasoline prices? Do you deserve two years of probable investigations into so-called war crimes and potential impeachment hearings, do you deserve that? Do the people of the country deserve what we would get with a liberal Democrat triumph? You know, we look at this, there's some people apparently look at this as a game in Washington that doesn't affect us, and the people who go to Washington, if they screw up, well, then the hell with me with them. They deserve to lose. It's good. They'll learn a lesson by losing. Hey, maybe so, but how long will it be before they win it back? Never have understood this notion that you win by losing, that you win by quitting."

Reynolds supporter Brad Wardell, aka Draginol, Oct. 16: "The Republicans blew it. They became complacent and ignored their constituents ... I say, let the Democrats win the House if that is how it's going to be and let them make the case that we need higher taxes, abandon Iraq to terrorists, etc. Then in 2008, those issues will come up with a vote by the American people and Bush and the Republicans can demonstrate how they were able to block those policies in the Democratically controlled congress. But right now, I have little excitement for Republicans. I don't feel they've held the principles they were elected on -- balanced budgets, securing our borders, etc."

Limbaugh, Oct. 17: "I'm going to take the same philosophy that I'm hearing now from recalcitrant voters who are upset. I think the Republicans deserve to lose; I think the Iraqis deserve to lose; I think the terrorists deserve to win; I think the Democrats deserve to win. The good guys have just totally botched this and they need to be 'taught a lesson.' I think we need a couple more hits on the United States in terms of terrorism to wake us up, too. I'm just going to take this philosophy and I'm going to apply it to virtually everything and I'm going to see how well it resonates out there."

Reynolds, Oct. 17: "I gather that Limbaugh was on about InstaPundit premortems, etc., again today. I didn't hear it ... I'm not actually hoping for the GOP to lose, but I do agree with James Taranto: '... there is something to be said for punishing the party in power if its performance has been subpar.' It's hard for me to believe that the [GOP's] performance will improve if there's no prospect of suffering at the polls."

Limbaugh, Oct. 18: "The last time this happened in significant numbers to deleterious effect was 1992, when a bunch of Republicans said to hell with Bush 41 and the no-new-taxes promise that he broke. 'We have to show these guys a lesson,' so we ended up with eight years of Bill Clinton -- and just two years later, of course, we ended up with a Republican House. Now, don't tell me it worked ... You had eight years of Clinton!"

Limbaugh again, Oct. 18: "That's what this Republicans-need-to-lose thing is all about, being king of the hill; being the smartest guy in the room, being the one to predict Republicans are going to lose because they deserved it, and then when it happens, saying, 'I caused it! My blog caused it. My ripping the Republicans and informing the American people, I brought it on,' and that's what they're in it for, some of them ... Now, I got a couple of e-mails ... from people who say, 'Oh, no, Rush! Don't get in a war with conservative bloggers. If the media rips you guys apart, it's all over.' I am not at war with conservative bloggers. ... This all got started when I cringed when I saw the use of the term 'premortem' on a blog site called InstaPundit. It hurt me; it irritated me as much as when Tom Davis, congressman from Virginia, goes on Face the Nation and starts ... counting up the number of seats his party is going to lose ... I watch it and I say, 'Well, that's really helpful.'"

Reynolds, Oct. 18: "The point of my 'premortem' wasn't to call for the Republicans to lose. Rather, after pointing out that a lot of hardcore GOP supporters expect them to lose, I wanted to note that if they do lose, it will be because of a number of dumb moves and dropped balls -- 'unforced errors,' as I called them -- that indicate that they've been taking their supporters for granted, ignoring their professed principles, and relying far too heavily on the old 'The Democrats are worse' argument to rally the base ... Limbaugh probably misunderstands my use of the word 'deserve' ... I think the GOP has been failing to exercise the kind of self-discipline that a party with a slim majority that wants to stay in the majority needs to exercise, especially if the stakes are as high as Limbaugh says they are."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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