Conservative Talkers, Feeling Just a Little Blue

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006

Conservative commentators were bloodied but unbowed yesterday.

After a day in which Republicans lost their grip on the House and appeared on the verge of forfeiting control in the Senate, some of the right's most prominent voices found little cause for discouragement.

"Democrats, in my mind, don't have a mandate because they stood for nothing," radio host Laura Ingraham told her listeners yesterday.

"Republicans lost last night, but conservatism did not," Rush Limbaugh said on the 600 stations that carry his program. "The Democrats beat something last night with nothing. They advanced no agenda, other than their usual antiwar position."

Two distinct camps quickly emerged among the columnists, talkers and bloggers who spent much of the last six years defending the administration. One carried an air of defiance, the other a mood of resignation that what President Bush yesterday called an electoral "thumping" was perhaps deserved.

"People are obviously depressed, but there's also been a sense among conservatives for a long time that Republicans deserved to be taken to the woodshed, and perhaps this will be cathartic," said Rich Lowry, editor of National Review. The Democrats "had the virtue of not being the Republicans and benefiting from an unpopular war and not having high-profile corruption issues hung around their necks, but they also made themselves acceptable to voters."

Moments after the interview, as the president announced that he was replacing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Lowry wrote on his magazine's Web site that "a lot of Republicans are probably yelling right now, 'Why didn't you do it BEFORE the election?' Of course, he couldn't have done it right before the election, but a few months ago it might have been a step toward giving the public the fresh look/approach it wanted with regard to Iraq."

Ingraham said after her show that she is "very confused. Wasn't it just last week that the president said Rumsfeld was doing an 'excellent' job? And hasn't the president consistently said that his war policy is driven by what is happening on the ground in Iraq -- not politics or polls?

"Six months ago the White House could have replaced Rumsfeld, tying the decision to lack of adequate progress in the war -- but doing it the day after the election looks weak and defensive, and a move aimed at placating Speaker-to-be [Nancy] Pelosi."

Beyond the Pentagon and politics, there was simply the trauma, known to every high school athlete, of losing the big game. Commentator Sean Hannity sounded like a therapist as he addressed his followers yesterday: "I know a lot of you are sad. I know a lot of you are bummed. I know a lot of you are depressed. . . . I'll give you 24 hours and then I'm going to tell you to get over it. Don't let yourself wallow in what has happened here."

Brian Maloney struck an equally upbeat note on his Radio Equalizer blog: "Unlike Democrats after their 2004 election debacle, it doesn't seem likely that many conservatives will threaten to move to Canada, spend months in therapy, or engage in angry, unhinged public meltdowns. Welcome to the No-Sulk Zone!"

Some pontificators weren't in mourning for their formerly favorite political party.

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