Friday, Michael Gerson became the latest former Bush operative to escalate the post-election war on the Tea Party and Sarah Palin when he published a Washington Post column entitled “The GOP’s Sarah Palin Problem.” In his column, Gerson mangles the facts terribly, even blaming Palin and Senator Jim DeMint for Sharron Angle’s ill-fated nomination in spite of the fact that neither endorsed Angle until after she won the nomination. Doug Brady dismantled the rest of Gerson’s specious argument at Conservatives4Palin. But most ironic was his closing statement that “the leading figure of the Tea Party movement seems increasingly indifferent to Republican fortunes and increasingly tolerant of disturbing extremism.”
I wonder how it comports with President Bush that just as he comes forth from seclusion to begin his book tour and rehab his image, a number of his former operatives like Gerson are reminding everyone of their war on the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. While Bush’s big-government policies might be excused, given his wartime presidency and small mandate, as the best conservatives could have hoped for at the time, those who once believed he was only compromising conservatism out of circumstantial necessity are becoming increasingly disabused of such notions. The risk for the former president is that conservatives become much less generous in those presumptions and excuses the more his operatives refuse to allow the Republican Party to move on.
First of all, recall that Sarah Palin identified Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt as the individuals who undermined her during the 2008 campaign — both borrowed high-level Bush operatives. Similarly Karl Rove, Schmidt’s mentor, clearly sabotaged Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s campaign. Not only did he obliterate O’Donnell’s post-primary honeymoon by eviscerating her before she had even given her victory speech, but he then had the audacity to wonder why she wasn’t “grabbing the imagination of the people of Delaware and moving ahead in the polls like these other candidates did around the country” after her “stunning upset.” It goes without saying that former Bush speechwriter David Frum has spent the last two years trying to destroy Palin and the Tea Party. Lastly, the New York Daily News reported last week that Bush himself has strongly disparaged Palin among his friends.
All of these highly public and ferocious attacks on conservatives seem to verify everything Matt Latimer has said about the Bush White House’s efforts, particularly Rove’s, to purge the Republican Party of conservatism, but Michael Gerson’s post-White House efforts might be the most incriminating of all.
Gerson has a manner of employing far-left tactics against conservatives that resembles a more erudite and magniloquent Meghan McCain. While the Republican Party has been huddling closer and closer to the fulcrum of the political seesaw trying to counterbalance the Democrats’ move to the far left, Gerson disproportionately focuses his attacks on the supposed dangerous radicalism on the right. Whether he is denouncing conservatives for “refus[ing] to police the excesses of their own,” equating O’Reilly with Olbermann, decrying “Tea Party Jacobinism” and their “Bolshevik approach,” or accusing conservatives of “nativism” and of proposing to “undertake a multiyear effort to feed racial conflict in America,” he is validating the left’s narratives about the right’s supposed radicalism.