Rescue Sane Conservatism

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That's what Bruce Bartlett is asking of president Obama:

In your State of the Union address, single out and mention by name a few Republicans who have taken actions or proposed ideas worthy of consideration. Quote some conservative intellectuals who have been critical of the Republican Party’s lack of a governing philosophy or meaningful legislative agenda. This will raise the status of a better class of Republicans and create a group with whom you can possibly develop a partnership.

What I am suggesting is really just a broader version of a tactic you have already occasionally used. In November, for instance, you invited Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker to a high-profile White House meeting to highlight their support for the new START treaty your administration negotiated. That meeting led to several weeks of press coverage in which Senate Republicans who were resisting a vote on ratification were portrayed as sacrificing national security for partisan advantage. That’s the kind of pressure you’ll need if you have any hope of moving your agenda through Congress in the coming two years.

I worry, of course, that on issues more controversial than START, Obama could stigmatize rational conservative voices among the GOP base by praising them. My gut tells me that one man may be more surprisingly helpful than some might expect: Tom Coburn. He endorsed Bowles-Simpson, perhaps the least noticed political event of last month. A Coburn-Obama end-the-long-term-debt alliance would be the best kind of biartisan move Obama could make - with a principled fiscal conservative (if an unhinged social one).

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