Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Too Far vs. Not Far Enough

In an excellent guest-post over on Andrew Sullivan's blog, Ross Douthat argues that Bush's recently revealed domestic surveillance won't benefit the Democrats.

All that the offense does, in the public mind, is add to the existing perception of the GOP as the party that sometimes goes too far and skirts the law in the pursuit of national security objectives. And it's almost always better to be tagged as "the party that might go too far" than as "the party that won't go far enough" -- which is how the Democrats are perceived these days. This explains why the GOP can weather controversy after controversy, from Iran-Contra down through Iraq War intelligence and the secret prisons and CIA waterboarding, and still hang on to the public trust on foreign affairs -- because in each case, they're perceived as having gone too far with good intentions, 24-style, and in an arena that most Americans perceive as being slightly outside the law anyway.

I think that's right. Of course, there has to be a point past which too far is simply too far and begins to hurt the GOP substantively in the long-term. But when the alternative is not going far enough -- hesitating, second-guessing, worrying, frittering, pussy-footing -- that threshhold remains high.

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