George Will, in the form of a question, begins, at the end of his column, with this deeply flawed premise -- "Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles" -- and ends, at the beginning of his party's comeuppance, with this inescapable and somewhat rational conclusion -- "to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?"
This, of course, is the unpleasant Mitt Romney. And Will's piece is a pleasure to read. The prince of priggishness (Will, that is, not the other one, Romney) has helped to husband a party of intellectual opportunism and ethical degeneration for several decades now, only to awaken from his dogmatic slumbers in repulsion and horror at its repulsive, horrifying inevitabilities; namely, a "recidivist reviser" of "principles" who must somehow balance the vast, internal contradictions of an absurdly radical conservatism.
Will assaults the GOP's "last to be voted off the island" -- to quote an outstanding pol of High Competence, a leadership quality in low favor with the ideological Will -- for hedging his positions on ethanol, the auto industry, and collecting bargaining. Will understandably neglects, for reasons of sheer space, Romney's even greater heroics in backflipping on abortion rights, gay rights, health care, gun control, illegal immigration, climate change ...
The ellipsis is there for, "More to come." And, I probably missed some.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Romney's faults are not Romney's fault -- not for a political animal. He inaugurated his Republican career when his party still permitted some autonomy of intelligence and empirically based decision-making. During his forced absences from the public stage, it was his party that slipped into recidivist revisionisms, thereby forcing Romney to serially revise his, uh, options -- of which he had none, not if he was to remain the Great Republican Hope.
Strike that. Romney could have jumped ship; he could have changed parties and therefore have left his principles unchanged. That tactic, however, would have been enormously bold, especially seeing how Romney was sired by a Republican governor and potential Republican president and all. It's an Oedipal thing, I suppose. Plus, boldness just isn't one of Romney's congenital traits.
So, he's been stuck -- stuck with "surmounting so many obstacles" of GOP madness. And Romney has done an admirable, even an awesome, job of it. I'm unaware of any other GOP pol who could so nimbly navigate his party's elaborate web of appalling deceit, dissension and accelerating radicalism.