Political Death Wish?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006; 9:58 AM

Let me get this straight: Some conservatives want the Republicans to lose the House in November?

Are they terminally depressed? Angry? Machiavellian? Resigned to defeat and trying to spin it in advance?

I'm not a mind-reader. But there's an emerging school of thought on the right that a Democratic House could be a useful foil.

Some of these conservatives are just disillusioned with their party and think some time out of power--at least in one chamber--might be beneficial. Others are worried about the voters blaming the GOP for everything that goes wrong between now and 2008. (That's the problem with controlling all the levers: it's hard to blame a minority party that has very little clout.)

Of course, losing the House would greatly impair the last two years of the Bush presidency. In fact, some conservatives who want Republicans to hold onto the House are using that frightening prospect as a tool to motivate the base. But others are saying, Hey, it won't be so bad .

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru makes this argument in a NYT op-ed:

"A straight loss . . . would make the Republicans hungrier and sharpen their wits. Freed from the obligation of cobbling together thin majorities for watered-down legislation, Republicans would be able to stand for something attractive . . .

"The effects of victory on the Democrats may also be helpful to Republicans. Powerlessness has stoked Democrats' rage. If the party wins the House, its left-leaning 'net-roots' may grow more enraged still, because the Democrats would then have the illusion of power without its reality. Even under their most optimistic calculations, they would have the smallest Democratic majority since 1957 -- and they will have to deal with a Republican president and (probably) Senate.

"House Democrats could initiate countless investigations of the administration and schedule votes to make Republicans look bad. But they could not do much to affect either the conduct of foreign policy or the composition of the courts, which are the areas where their most fervent supporters most desperately want influence . . .

"If Democrats win the House now, the next Republican presidential candidate will be able to run against Nancy Pelosi and the liberal committee chairmen who would suddenly be in the headlines."

Can a presidential contender really run against Nancy Pelosi? Well, I guess the Democrats ran against Newt.

Well, the . . . policy has hit the fan in the tortuous debate over torture.


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