Two mini-profiles out today, by two of my favorite political writers, put together a picture of the GOP that's Margaret Keane-worthy in its pathos and horror.
Jim Antle interviews former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who's remade himself as a partisan outsider preaching the gospel of grassroots organizing and vertical media message discipline to a conservative movement that… uh, has to go over there, now. (I remember seeing DeLay at his 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference booth being roundly ignored by young and old Republicans.)
"I was praying for a long primary season," he says. "With the race over in February, we didn't have time to build the party."
Barack Obama was able to assemble a formidable grassroots organization in all 50 states during a long and drawn-out primary fight with Hillary Clinton. But after his nearest competitors imploded or undermined one another, John McCain was able to rack up big wins on Super Tuesday without any comparable organizing. DeLay worries that McCain will learn the wrong lesson from his come-from-behind victory and conclude that groundwork is unnecessary.
Even so, DeLay doesn't think McCain is necessarily doomed. "Obama is too radical," he says, calling the presumptive Democratic nominee a "socialist" and a "Marxist." But even if McCain wins, that won't be sufficient for a 1994-style conservative comeback. "Conservatives will have to fight McCain too on issues like immigration, affirmative action, and global warming," DeLay says. He warns that the cap-and-trade policies favored in varying degrees by both Obama and McCain could "destroy our economy."
Over at The New Republic, Eve Fairbanks interviews Col. Allen West, a candidate for Florida's Democratic-held 22nd district. Maybe you've heard of West.
An egghead who reads medieval Muslim history and the anti-socialist French thinker Frederic Bastiat in his spare time, West was on track for a generalship when his unit was assigned in August 2003 to interrogate an Iraqi policeman who had supposedly turned Benedict Arnold. The policeman refused to cooperate, so West dragged him outside, pushed his head into the sand, and fired a gun next to his face to get him to sing. "I'd do it again if I had to," West tells me over tea and a doughnut in Plantation, Florida. "It wasn't torture. Seeing Rosie O'Donnell naked would be torture."
The scandal's actually helped West with Republicans.
Dinerstein, the Palm Beach Republican chair, explains: "There's always been a belief by those of us on our side that the rules of engagement were inhibiting our military … I mean, the whole Abu Ghraib thing is quite extraordinary–not one person even got tortured! One of my sound-bites is that more people died in Teddy Kennedy's car. " For humiliated Republicans constantly hearing that voters want "change"–in other words, anything but their shameful selves–West is a relief, a walking argument that they have been right all along.