(By the way, I don't say "semi-rational" just to be insulting; it's past time that Douthat, and his former asylum mate Megan Jane Howard-Roark, admit, for the good of the country, that they're crazier'n a griddleful of fleas, and run off and do whatever the progeny of the Wannabe Quality are supposed to do. There never was a time when we needed their opinions on anything, and now that time is past. I just found out a day or two ago that, prior to Douthat's mother's dissatisfaction that medical science did not solve her problem in 48 hours, which is what led to the entire family becoming snake handlers (the part of the bio I did know), they'd been Episcopalians, which is where wealthy WASPs go if the Romans seem a little too ethnic. Then they all became Catholics, the late conversion presumably explaining how Ross can write a column about the Kennedy Cult without throwing up in his own mouth. This sort of thing apparently is filed by the sort of East Coast snobs who employ such people as "being religious" when, in fact, anyone with any sense of religion can tell you it's fucking cracked. Changing religions is one thing. Accepting the theological shift from Episcopalianism to glossolalia is an undertaking that should require an alpenstock, if not a written test; switching to Catholicism from there is prima facie evidence that one hasn't been paying attention to anything, or maybe was just tripping out on the stained glass. This is not a condemnation of Young Ross, who presumably had no choice in the matter. Nor, really, is it meant as a condemnation of whatever family dynamic was at work, however Scripturally mazed. It's to note that a succession of religious officials in the 80s and 90s felt no compunction about accepting into the Fold a group which was clearly marooned on some coconut island of the mind. Budweiser is choosier about who can be seen with its product.)
Douthat has been assigned to write for this Times campaign blog, which advertises itself as offering Strong Opinions, though he's yet to cough up anything resembling an Opinion, let along one of strength. Today, Young Ross would like you to know that, having read this guy in the Weekly Standard--and please, won't somebody at the Times forbid Douthat from linking to the wingnuts who do his real thinking for him?--we can conclude that while Mitt Romney is pretty awful, he's still better than the Republican alternatives. The poets call this sort of insight "trenchant".
The fun part of the piece--I'm kiddin' ya; there isn't one--is that Douthat starts off bemoaning the fact that Poor Mitt has won Decisive Contest after Decisive Contest while the Media blatantly ignored the fact, then proceeds to analyze the "failures" of the Romney campaign as told by the Conventional Wisdom.
Still hungering for the real pungent stuff I head over to Slate, where John Dickerson can usually be counted on. To say the same things as William Saletan.
Romney will argue that he is "bringing the party together," a claim that rests on whether enough people believe that he is acceptable to conservatives. He got some evidence in Illinois to help him make his case. Romney won his usual constituencies—moderates, the wealthy, and the well-educated. But he also improved his performance among the 64 percent who identify themselves as "conservatives." Romney won 47 percent of that group to Santorum’s 39 percent. He also won 47 percent of the vote from those who support the Tea Party to Santorum’s 36 percent.
Listen, you don't have to tell me that "conservative" has no actual meaning in contemporary American politics, but if you're obliged to use it anyway, could you do so with some consistency? When people say "Romney will have trouble with conservatives" they mean the red meat, gun-totin', Jebus-spouting neo-Confederates who make up a third of the party, not "self-described conservative" members of the "conservative" party. This exchanges something approximating "reality" for the more comforting one in which people like John Dickerson don't have to call those people "nuts".
If Willard Mitt is the shoo-in nominee, then "conservatives" like him, in considerable numbers. He's certainly tailored his message to the extreme end of the Republican spectrum (though some--me, fer instance--would argue that's a spectrum with only one end), while trying to preserve what room there is to tack towards the "center" in the General. That--clearly, now--is what the "conservative" party has voted for in this primary season. Let's call this what it is: Mitt Romney is, in public, as "conservative" as most of his party, and its pundits, are comfortable to admitting to in polite society. This is the "rift" in the party: half of it believes a third of it is an enormous vat of guano.
But if Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, or Haley Barbour put their arm around Romney, it would generate some coverage in conservative circles and perhaps that would translate to even more lopsided wins in future states.
Jeb has since done so; we'll see what sort of "conservative" circles this means anything in. Daniels ain't exactly beloved of the sort of people who don't like Mitt; maybe somebody could explain this to Mr. Dickerson. Break the news that Haley Barbour is as toxic as the lower half of the Mississippi to him gently; a good script is a horrible thing to have to toss out all at once.
This may've been the score four years ago, when the skid marks Mitt Romney had left in turning "conservative" were still fresh, warm, and redolent of plastic; today he's Mitt Romney, nobody's sweetheart, and no liberal except to the knuckle-draggers of his own party. Fifty-one percent, or something approximating that, have repudiated them, at least as regards selection of a national candidate. The same thing happened last time, except last time the "real" "conservatives" had only tax-raisin' Mike Huckabee to carry the banner; this time they've had a half-dozen to chose from, all duds. It's time to acknowledge that Mitt Romney is the face of the national Republican party, or the face it wishes to show the rest of the country, neatly coiffed, tone-deaf, and vacant behind the eyes, rather than the ravening Bronze Age thinkers who represent 40% of its voters and most of it Congressional representatives. It's the party which now admits that addled oligarchy, however unpopular, has to run things because that's preferable to the alternative. Time for the rest of y'all to say so, too.