Perhaps in an outbreak of Chuck Hagel envy, parts of the Republican world have taken a crash course in dimness, or perhaps mutually assured self-destruction, crafting new ploys to damage their interests, in fresh and inventive new ways.
Former Bush aide Karl Rove and Republican donors form a new group, in an effort to prevent the nomination of screw-ups -- some (but not all) of them under the Tea Party aegis -- who have managed in the course of two cycles to cost the party four or five Senate seats. Do they take this idea to Tea Party figures and broach ways to do this? Not quite. They form the project themselves, and use the New York Times to announce it, assuring it's framed in its favorite context; which is, disarray on the Right.
The group, the Times says, is "intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment ... candidates," is a "robust attempt ... to impose a new sense of discipline" and a sign that many establishment figures are "fight[ing] back against Tea Party groups."
Call this a red flag to a bull, or a match tossed on kindling, or a poke in the eye to a collection of paranoids. But the Right has taken it the way FDR took the attack on Pearl Harbor, quickly declaring total war.
"Any candidate who gets this group's support should be targeted for destruction," said Erick Erickson. There followed on numerous blogs a rehash of the Right's favorite themes of betrayal, going back past the desertion of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 debacle to the nominations of Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Dewey and yes, Wendell Willkie, over the solid conservative Robert A. Taft. To hear them talk, since Reagan left office the Establishment has delighted in sabotaging brilliant conservative candidates and forcing a series of squishes down the throats of the people, most of which go on to lose.
"Their idea of the most 'electable' presidential candidate was Mitt Romney, and before him John McCain, and before him Bob Dole," said Brent Bozell, invoking the names of three previous losers. But no one thought Mitt Romney was the most electable candidate, merely the most electable in the field of underqualified ultraconservatives then running.
And who were the conservatives they think could have won after the financial crash in 2008 (before which McCain had been leading), or ousted the sitting President Clinton in 1996, after he passed welfare reform and "peace and prosperity" seemed to prevail? The conservatives' problem is not Karl Rove; it's their subpar candidates. (Although in the 2012 cycle, the establishment wing of the party ran some of those, too.)
These stunning displays of cognitive malpractice occurred as Claire McCaskill announced her intention to go national with her Todd Akin strategy, urging Democrats everywhere to actively fund the Republicans candidates whom they want most to oppose. At the same time, Democrats in Kentucky are seeking out disgruntled Tea Party members to help them unseat Mitch McConnell; either to soften him up in the primary season or beat him outright.
"Progress Kentucky has begun circulating petitions urging Republicans to jump into the race, and Democratic donors ... are privately making it clear they're willing to help bankroll a Tea Party candidate," reports Politico. "We are doing a lot of reaching out to some of the Tea Party folks,' a MoveOn.org organizer said to the paper. "We're finding that our interests align."
Do their interests align in electing a loser? That's what remains to be seen.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."