Inside the conservative civil war


    Let’s stick with the Delaware story, because today’s Republican senatorial primary – with its vicious right-wing intramurals, and its potentially national implications – is way juicier than a late-summer Jersey tomato.

    Wow, where to begin…Apparently the tea-partiers in thrall to upstart candidate Christine O’Donnell have decided that their worst enemies are not the “socialists” in power, but, rather, the Republicans who rightfully view O’Donnell as pitifully underqualified and eminently beatable in November.

    For instance, the other day, an O’Donnell fan emailed Delaware Republican chairman Tom Ross to express displeasure with Ross’ support for Mike Castle, the longtime congressman who’s trying to win the Senate primary with the GOP’s official backing. The O’Donnell fan informed Ross that he deserved “a bullet in the head,” and that it will be a great day when conservatives “rid the GOP of pieces of (dung) like you.”

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    What a creative way to take the country back. It’s enough to swell the breast with patriotic pride.

    Meanwhile, in the latest episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine, we’ve now learned that O’Donnell’s credibility has taken another big hit. She had already been outed for falsely claiming during her failed ’06 and ’08 campaigns that she was a college graduate when, in fact, she didn’t get her bachelor’s degree until 2010, 17 years after entering college(and 16 years after Farleigh Dickinson sued her for unpaid tuition). But now there are verified reports that in 2003 she claimed to be studying for a master’s degree at Princeton – which would have been quite a feat, given the fact that at the time she hadn’t yet earned her bachelor’s degree. This past weekend, when asked by the press to explain this particular lie, an O’Donnell spokesman was forced to admit that O’Donnell’s Princeton career was really quite modest. She had only been taking an undergraduate class.

    Enter Sarah Palin. The former half-term governor has loaned her intellect to the O’Donnell cause, suggesting in a weekend robo-call and radio ad that the various attacks on O’Donnell (regarding the threatened tax liens and foreclosures, and much more) are merely proof of O’Donnell’s worthiness for high elective office. After all, Palin herself was attacked in 2008 – and look how qualified she was. From the robo-call: “I can relate to the vicious personal attacks on Christine, and can tell you it’s sad to see the establishment’s desperation in this.”

    Well, this feels like something new. Palin’s usual victimization riff has been aimed at liberals, “the media,” and all others who presumably don’t dwell in what she has called “real America.” But now her indictment has been broadened to include not only fellow Republicans, but also the various conservative activists and commentators who view O’Donnell as a joke.

    Worse than a joke, actually. If O’Donnell beats Castle in today’s primary, and loses in November, the Democrats might be able to eke out a slim Senate majority.

    In other words, the purity battles within the GOP have become so intense that conservatives are now pitted against other conservatives. Some of the toughest reporting on O’Donnell has been conducted by The Weekly Standard, a prominent print and online voice on the Republican right. This past weekend, the Standard was frying O’Donnell over her master’s degree deception, which first surfaced in an ’03 lawsuit that she had filed against a former employer. (In the lawsuit, which she ultimately dropped, she claimed that she had “lost the earning power that a master’s degree from Princeton would have created.”)

    O’Donnell may demonstrate tonight that, at least within the small right-leaning Republican primary electorate, she is essentially critic-proof – like the bad beach novel that generates sales despite (or because of) the disdain it inspires among book critics. But that possibility has alarmed many conservative commentators, including Jim Geraghty of The National Review, who assails O’Donnell’s defenders for refusing “to seriously acknowledge or rebuke behavior that would have been instantly denounced coming from any Democrat.”

    Worse yet, Jim Moore, a conservative activist and consultant who worked for O’Donnell during her failed ’08 senate campaign, wrote online yesterday: “Everything said about her is absolutely true….Her delusions and dishonesty are unbecoming of any elected official at any level. Conservatives everywhere have to learn that we cannot take all candidates at face value….Christine O’Donnell is not deserving of ever holding elective office, and her nomination will be nothing short of catastrophic to the tea party movement.”

    Which is why Delaware Democrats will be standing by tonight, in the hopes of celebrating their unexpected good fortune.


    President Obama was in Philadelphia today, to deliver his annual back-to-school address. At the J. R. Masterman school, he told students: “Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing – absolutely nothing – is beyond your reach. So long as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.”

    No word yet on whether Newt Gingrich, trolling the sewers for cheap rhetorical thrills, has denounced these remarks as further proof of “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.”

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