orget about winning the White House this year, conservative stalwart George Will counsels his fellow Republicans in a Washington Post column. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum "seems likely to be elected," so "taking stock of reality," Republicans should turn to the "much more attainable" goals of retaining control of the House and winning a majority in the Senate. If Republicans control all the committees in Congress, they'll "serve as fine-mesh filters, removing President Obama's initiatives from the stream of legislation," and making "a re-elected Obama a lame duck at noon Jan. 20." Conservatives haven't embraced Will's presidential defeatism — Pat Buchanan said that "Will ought to have his pundit's license suspended" — but is Will's lemonade-out-of-lemons advice fundamentally sound?
Will's plan has some merit: "Republicans know in their hearts" that Romney is a tough sell, says Michael Brendan Dougherty at Business Insider. So in a way, Will's plan makes sense. In fact, he might even be underselling the benefits. Second-term presidents always get bogged down in scandals, as issues that "were simmering in the first four years begin to boil over." (Think Nixon and Watergate, or Reagan and Iran-Contra.) "The only way to really expose them is to control every congressional oversight committee."
"Forget beating Barack this year, win the Senate and thwart his agenda..."
Don't "hoist the white flag" yet: "Rarely has an intelligent man been so wrong," says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. The GOP still has a 1-in-3 or 1-in-2 chance of defeating Obama, and "it would be crazy not to do everything one can to effectuate an outcome so devoutly to be desired." Remember, "ObamaCare can't be reversed from Congress. Iran can't be denied nuclear weapons by Congress... Judges can't be appointed by Congress." Conservatives must do all they can to seize the White House. "There is no substitute for victory."
And gridlock won't help conservatism: Will is right about Obama's chances, says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. But his solution is self-defeating. Congress is historically unpopular because of the same obstructionist "shenanigans" Will is pitching for the GOP in a second Obama term. But "absent a positive message for the future," conservatives won't win any converts — or the White House in 2017.
"George Will wants four more years of gridlock"
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