The GOP can’t be the party of Bill Kristol and the party of limited government.
Any conservative assessment of what went wrong during the Bush era has to acknowledge the role that excessive deference to the executive and nationalist triumphalism played in movement conservatives’ acquiescence to the rest of Bush’s agenda. Insofar as movement conservatives remain committed to the idea of a perpetual “war on terror,” movement conservatives will be especially reluctant to criticize “their” president in “wartime.” This will encourage harmful support for executive power, indefinite detention, and arbitrary and illegal warfare, and it will also make it more difficult politically for them to object to Romney’s domestic agenda (whatever that turns out to be). Just as Rubio’s phony constitutionalism has a massive exception for anything deemed related to national security, the proposal for holding Romney accountable to a small-government agenda suffers from the same flaw that reducing military spending and reining in the national security state are not part of the agenda Klein is describing.
All of this may be moot. It is possible that Romney will win and conservatives will be in need of some sort of “survival guide” for his presidency, but it is still slightly more likely that Romney will lose in the fall. Constitutionalist and small-government conservatives should be considering how they will counter the inevitable push for a more accommodating and “centrist” Republican agenda that will follow should Obama win in November.