Friday's "Political Memo," "In Saying No, G.O.P. Sees More Pros Than Cons,"finds reporter Jackie Calmeswary of conservative opposition to Obama's plans, It used to be Republican recalcitrance on "immigration reform," that would doom the G.O.P. Now, its failure to get on board with Obama's big government health care agenda.
Calmes pointed to the G.O.P's "remarkable display of...unity" against Obama's agenda, but then emphasized "rare rebukes" from a trio of (retired) Republican pols, including confirmed moderate Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker.
The numbers are striking: Of the 217 Republicans in the House and the Senate, only one, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, has publicly supported a health care overhaul along the lines President Obama seeks.
The Republicans' opposition is a remarkable display of the unity emerging against the broader Obama agenda as a dangerous expansion of government. That stance is popular with, even demanded by, the party's narrowed conservative base.
But it also exposes Republicans to criticism that they have become political obstructionists with no policy agenda of their own. And that could keep them from extending their appeal to the centrist voters who are essential to rebuilding the party's strength nationally.
Republicans' naysaying on health care, after their nearly unanimous opposition to Mr. Obama's economic stimulus package, has already drawn rare rebukes from an array of prominent party figures outside Capitol Hill, who say the party should be for something, not just against. Among the critics have been three former Senate Republican leaders: Bob Dole, Bill Frist and Howard H. Baker Jr.
Calmes made another crack at conservative Southerners, who evidently spend their time parroting "cable television celebrities" (in other words, Fox News) and share blame for reducing the Republican party to a rump band of conservatives.
After recent defeats, Republicans are down to 40 members in the Senate and 177 in the House, or 40 percent in each chamber. They are largely reduced to the party's base of mostly Southern and rural states and beholden both to the conservative activists there and to the cable television celebrities those activists follow.
Few centrists remain. And since many centrists have been defeated by conservatives in party primaries, the survivors - or any Republicans considering compromise - operate in fear of similar challenges.
After citing two polls that she claimed "hold some warnings for Republicans," she weakly tried to rebut a Republican argument that the party is just doing what Democrats did to Bush's agenda:
Republicans say their hostility to Mr. Obama on health care is no different from Democrats' opposition in 2005 to President George W. Bush's proposal to partly privatize Social Security. But Republicans, who had majorities in Congress then, were unsupportive as well in that case. Further, while most Democrats disagreed with Mr. Bush's view that Social Security faced a financial crisis, both parties agree that the health care system needs overhaul.