Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wrong-way Kristol: Specter's switch will hurt Obama

This was wholly predictable, but some credit should be given that it took less than 24 hours to happen.

Background: Last week in the Guardian Eric Alterman tallied up the short but happy life of William Kristol, who's been wrong about everything but his shirt size for years and years, but just keeps failing upward from one high-profile job to the next anyway. Most of us know the general arc of his career, but to see the cavalcade of error listed out on the page is a pretty jaw-dropping experience.

This morning in the Washington Post--where Kristol landed after getting the "it's not you, it's me" speech from the NYTimes a couple of months ago--he shows he's still got it:

On May 24, 2001, I wrote an op-ed for The Post in the wake of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords’s party switch. I argued that the switch, which cost Republicans control of the Senate, could well turn out to be good for President Bush.

Not entirely for the reasons I speculated on in the op-ed, I turned out to be right. Bush was still able to get enough cooperation to govern over the next year and a half, and he was also able to run successfully against the Democratic Senate in the fall of 2002. The GOP regained control that November.

Similarly and contrarianly, I wonder if today’s Arlen Specter party switch, this time to the president’s party, won’t end up being bad for President Obama and the Democrats.

Okay, two things here.

First--"contrarianly"? Dude.

Second, noting that Bush managed to stay in office after Jeffords switched parties is hardly the same as proving that the switch was "good for Bush." Of course, that was back in the days when, if a sparrow fell from the sky, beltway commentators climbed over one another to explain why this was bad for the Democrats and good for the Republicans. (And for some, it appears those days never ended.)

Kristol's reasoning (and I use the word strictly without prejudice here) runs as follows: A filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate--which Specter's defection does not make a lock, even assuming that Al Franken will be seated within his own lifetime--will give Obama no one to blame if things continue to go badly.

Removed from the Post web site and returned to the school yard where it belongs, this is a slightly more polished way of saying "There! And I hope you choke on it!" Nice.

The good news, of course, is that if Kristol says Specter's defection will be bad for the Democrats, then it will probably strengthen their hand more than I've given it credit.

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