What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 29 2006 11:59 PM

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?

With this election sinking fast, Republicans debate how not to lose the next one.

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Armey and Gingrich are right – the revolution of 1994 was betrayed by the arrogance of power. But by overreaching in the heady days after that election, they wrote the book on how to go too far. The corrupt, spendthrift compassionate conservatism that helped dig the deep hole Republicans are now in was the only way out of the last hole Gingrich and Armey had dug the party. After 1995, Republicans were so desperate to prove they wouldn't shut down the government again, they made it so big they couldn't shut it if they tried.

The third widely held excuse for Republican demise is the Hack-of-a-Job theory: that there's nothing wrong with Bushism that getting rid of the Bushies won't fix. Under this theory, the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership are the Hacks that Couldn't Shoot Straight. Donald Rumsfeld botched the war; Michael Brown botched Katrina; Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Tom DeLay, and now Dennis Hastert botched the Congress; and Mark Foley botched the election.

For all those self-evident truths, the Hack-of-a-Job theory is a dangerous delusion for Republicans, because it ducks the unpleasant matter of whether conservative ideas actually work, when for a very long time they haven't.

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Mitt Romney will try to endear himself to conservatives with this unreflective message that Republicans' problem is incompetence, not ideology. We had a Massachusetts governor like that once. He lost in a landslide – but on the bright side, he made for great recriminations. ... 11:55 P.M. (link)

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T-Minus 10: With just 10 days and counting until the midterms, there is nothing left to say about this election. Here at the Has-Been, that can only mean one thing: say it more often. From now through Election Night, the entire Has-Been team will be working round the clock to come up with inane commentary, falsified insider intelligence, and preposterous predictions.

Here at Slate, we recognize that you have a choice in how you kill time until the election is over. Over at TimesSelect ($), the New York Times offers a daily feature called "Midterm Madness." At Slate's sister publication, the Washington Post, you can win an American Express gift certificate by making your own predictions in a contest called "Midterm Madness." If you want more Midterm Madness, you can read the book or see the movie.

We're not going to pay you to waste time with us. That's what your employer is for. But in the spirit of the season, we will make you all kinds of promises we can't possibly deliver—including an advance copy of the actual election results, which Diebold was kind enough to share with us last week.

You can help! If you have a tip about what to expect on Nov. 7, send it to thehasbeen@gmail.com, where it will quickly be blown out of all proportion. Just the other day, a young political whiz named Jay sent me one of the best lines of the political season:

"The same week the Mark Foley scandal broke, several Republican congressman called for another investigation into Sandy Berger for pocketing classified documents from the National Archives. This just proves that Republicans are more concerned about the pages in Berger's pockets than about . . . ."

Well, you get the idea. … 11:58 P.M. (link)

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