"The Party Animal Either Plays Well Or Fights Well" is a confusing headline tothe confusing lead storyof Sunday's Week in Reviewby Michael Oreskes, editor of the Times' international edition. One quirk is obvious, however - Oreskes has a favorite word for Republicans.
Ever since, as the Republican debate on Wednesday night reminded us, Reaganism has been Republican orthodoxy - "mainstream Republicanism," in Mr. Romney's phrase. It has also been the dominant political force in the country, forcing even Bill Clinton as president to tack in that direction in order to govern effectively. This is what Mr. Obama was acknowledging in the remarks the Clintons seized upon.
Now the 2008 election seems likely to signal a final transition from the Reagan era. A simple view is that orthodox Reaganism has come crashing down in the troubled presidency of George W. Bush. But that would be to miss several larger tides of politics and opinion. For one thing, there is the difference between Mr. Reagan himself and some of his successors. Mr. Reagan, for all the clarity of his beliefs, was also a pragmatist, usually willing to negotiate (whether the man on the other side of the table was Tip O'Neill or Mikhail Gorbachev). Some of his political followers - Mr. McCain is not a bad example - adopted his ideology and his pragmatism. But others took the ideology without Mr. Reagan's flexibility, or his charm, an approach captured by the title of Tom DeLay's memoir, "No Retreat, No Surrender."
Oreskes downplayed John McCain being courted to run as Democrat John Kerry's running mate in 2004 and ignoredMcCain's open attitude toward a party switch in 2001. Oreskes can't understand why any Republicans would hold such "thoughts" against him.
Just as Mrs. Clinton pilloried Mr. Obama for indiscreetly suggesting that Mr. Reagan had ideas, Mr. Romney attacked Mr. McCain because the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, considered inviting Mr. McCain to be his running mate. What was Mr. McCain's mistake, according to Mr. Romney? "He gave that some thought." A mistake Mr. Romney says he would never have made: "Had someone asked me that question," which as far as we know no Democratic candidate ever has, "there would not have been a nanosecond of thought about it."
So there it was. Even thinking about working with the other team, let alone praising its ideas, can be a grievous political sin (which Republican loyalists feel Mr. McCain has committed any number of times on any number of issues, as Mr. Romney well knew and hoped to reinforce just before the primary in Florida).
The sincerity of Mr. Romney's own commitment to Republican orthodoxy has been challenged, but with the zealotry of a convert, he has stepped up the pressure on Mr. McCain since Florida. He describes the race with Mr. McCain as "this battle for the heart of the Republican Party" and is ever ready with a list of issues on which Mr. McCain has strayed from Republican orthodoxy - immigration, campaign finance, tax reduction, same-sex marriage.
Not so Mr. Obama or, to a considerable extent, Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama's campaign has clearly been tapping a pervasive disenchantment with the nation's condition and its politics. And Mr. McCain has been running against the conservative establishment, the seat of its orthodoxy.
Oreskes used the word "orthodoxy" five times to apply to Republicans or conservatives (one use applied to political parties in general).