Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Might defeat in 2004 be the best option available to the Republicans?

I'd like to expand on a point Ezra Klein makes here:

Something to watch is the Senate's reaction in the coming weeks. I'm getting the distinct impression that a fair chunk of Republicans are no longer invested in this President's reelection. It's a combination of worry over the direction of their party, an irritation at being so far out of the loop and a growing realization that Bush's reelection will be bad for the War on Terror and disastrous for Iraq. Contrary to what some think, most politicians want the best for the country, they just have peculiar ideas on how to get there. The unavoidable understanding that appears to be sweeping the halls of power is that the closet is too full of skeletons to pack any more in there -- there's a desire to get it all in the open to see how bad it is before we've got this guy locked in for a second term.

Ezra keys into a dynamic in this scandal that I hadn't considered before: the Republican leadership is starting to ask themselves whether, if a small part of the accusations against the Bushies prove to be true, such a revelation, coming after Bush's re-election, might not bring the party down as a whole.

Consider Nixon and Watergate. The break-in occurred before the 1972 election, but didn't become a full-blown scandal until after Nixon was re-elected. Now imagine if the full revelations of Watergate had come out before the election. How many Republicans would have asked themselves whether it might not be better to go down to electoral defeat in that election then to suffer the indignity of having their party standard-bearer run out of town on a rail?

The Republicans were hurt badly in the 1976 election in large part because of Watergate. Might they have done better if Nixon had never been re-elected?

How many Republicans today are asking themselves whether there is something even nastier that might come out about the Bush crew but that it might not come out until after Dubya is re-elected? And how many of them are making the political calculation that it would be better to get the nasty stuff out now rather than later?

That could go a long way toward explaining why his party's leadership isn't exactly rushing to the mike to defend Bush.

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