Why Won’t The GOP Honor An American Victory?

E.J. Dionne, Jr. – Washington Post

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

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Clint, Rick and the limits of pessimism

What do Rick Santorum and Clint Eastwood have in common?

Sorry, Rick, you haven’t made it yet as an Eastwood-style make-my-day cultural icon. But in different ways, Santorum and Eastwood have demonstrated the limits of both an entirely negative slant on politics and a pessimistic take on America’s future.

Santorum’s Tuesday sweep of Republican presidential contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado was a sharp rebuke to Mitt Romney, the on-again, off-again “inevitable” GOP nominee, who has built his campaign almost entirely on attacks. His primary target has been President Obama, but Romney has also been relentless in his assaults on former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who admittedly gives him a lot of material to work with.

What Romney has failed to do is give voters strong reasons to be for him. He’s missing what Richard Nixon (yes, that Nixon) called “the lift of a driving dream.” Signs of economic improvement are making Romney’s critiques of the Obama economy more problematic by the week. In the meantime, Santorum keeps getting more appealing simply by staying out of the Romney-Gingrich slugfest.

English: Clint Eastwood at the 2008 Cannes Fil...

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As for Eastwood, his Super Bowl ad for Chrysler led many conservatives to reveal themselves as whiny complainers incapable of celebrating the achievements of American enterprise and public policy. To paraphrase the lateJeane Kirkpatrick’s effective 1984 jab at Democrats, Republicans always blame American government first. If government (and, God forbid, Obama) had anything to do with the revival of the U.S. auto industry, let’s not dare be happy about its comeback.

Never mind that Eastwood was right to offer his lovely tribute to American resilience. “It seems that we’ve lost our heart at times,” Eastwood said. “The fog of division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one.”

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