Okay, he isn’t saying that exactly, but he does seem to be one of the few columnists or radio hosts who recognises that there is something awry with the persistent demonisation of Huckabee and McCain when compared to the much more friendly treatment meted out to Romney and Giuliani, who are, by any fair standard judging by their records, far less conservative than the two receving the third degree from pundits, activists and talk radio hosts. If the phrase “pro-war liberal” applies to anyone in the race, it is Giuliani, yet he typically gets a pass from the people who would try to persuade you that Huckabee wants something like “socialism in one nation under God.” There is no doubt, as I have noted before, that the majority view of Huckabee in particular is that of someone who is seriously conservative, and Republicans likewise identify with Huckabee and McCain as people who “share their values” far more than Romney or Giuliani. That Huckabee has not been noticeably more conservative than the President over the years and yet receives the highest rating as a conservative by Republicans should tell you something about cognitive dissonance among GOP voters, who claim in poll after poll around the country that they want someone like Reagan and not like Bush and are, according to national and Feb. 5 state polling, nonetheless happily embracing the two candidates who seem like natural heirs to a Bush-dominated GOP.
Now by the standards of what I would recognise as conservatism, all of the four are badly wanting, none can really be trusted and all are deeply in the wrong on foreign policy to different degrees, but I am keenly aware that the standards I use are definitely not the prevailing ones in the GOP today and haven’t been for some time. It was simply impossible for the GOP and the movement to tie themselves so closely to Bush, to rally core constituencies to his side time after time and to identify many of his worst policies (e.g., “the freedom agenda”) as their guiding principles and then suddenly reverse the effects of the last seven years on the attitudes of the voters who had been stampeded into the Bush corral. The Republicans who say they want a Reagan-like leader and don’t think Bush is cut from the same cloth nonetheless approve of the President’s performance in approximately the same percentages as embrace Huckabee and McCain. There may not be complete identification between Bush supporters and Huckabee/McCain supporters (McCain seems to have the backing of a remarkable number of anti-Bush voters), but if two-thirds of the GOP still back Bush how is it so remarkable that two-thirds would also back Huckabee and/or McCain?
It seems more certain than ever that Ross was right when he wrote:
If you consider how the nation’s most ambitious Republicans are positioning themselves for 2008, Bushism looks like it could have surprising staying power.