[T]he real action migrated to New York’s 23rd, a rural Congressional district abutting Canada... [T]his pastoral setting could become a G.O.P. killing field...
...[T]he right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult that is as eager to eat its own as it is to destroy Obama...
...To the right’s Jacobins, that’s cause to send [GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava] to the guillotine.
...The wrecking crew of Kristol, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the government-bashing Club for Growth all joined the Hoffman putsch
...Though [Beck, Palin and their acolytes] constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode.
...It’s Afghanistan and joblessness, not the Stalinists of the right, that have the power to bring this president down.
Rich has little basis for this hateful rhetoric. His objection is that conservatives supported a third party challenger to a moderate Republican candidate in NY-23 (the moderate, Scozzafava, has since withdrawn and endorsed the Democrat in the race). But as Chait points out, this is normal political behavior:
Some GOP hacks appointed a relative moderate to represent a district that could probably sustain a much more conservative representative, and conservatives are trying to elect a more right-wing alternative. What exactly is the problem here?
Chait then asks an excellent question -- would Rich feel the same way if the shoe were on the other foot?
[S]uppose this was a solidly Democratic district, and party bosses put forward an anti-stimulus, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights nominee. Would Rich really oppose a liberal campaign to elect a more like-minded representative? Would he employ such virtiolic metaphors? There's a lesson here about making a moral cause out of a procedural argument you're not prepared to back in opposite circumstances.
It turns out that we have a reasonably good comparison case -- Ned Lamont's 2006 challenge to Joe Lieberman. Lieberman isn't "anti-stimulus, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights," but he, like Scozzafava, is far more moderate than his party's base. And yet Rich somehow wasn't quite as worked up about Lamont's challenge back in 2006 -- indeed, Rich described the reaction to Lieberman's primary defeat as a "hysterical overreaction":
[T]he death rattle of the domestic political order we've lived with since 9/11 can be found everywhere: in Americans' unhysterical reaction to the terror plot, in politicians' and pundits' hysterical overreaction to Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut, even in the ho-hum box-office reaction to Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center."
... Mr. Lamont's victory in the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary has been as overhyped as Mr. Stone's movie. As a bellwether of national politics, one August primary in one very blue state is nearly meaningless. Mr. Lieberman's star began to wane in Connecticut well before Iraq became a defining issue. His approval rating at home, as measured by the Quinnipiac poll, had fallen from 80 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in July 2003, and that was before his kamikaze presidential bid turned "Joementum" into a national joke.
The hyperbole that has greeted the Lamont victory in some quarters is far more revealing than the victory itself. In 2006, the tired Rove strategy of equating any Democratic politician's opposition to the Iraq war with cut-and-run defeatism in the war on terror looks desperate. The Republicans are protesting too much, methinks. A former Greenwich selectman like Mr. Lamont isn't easily slimed as a reincarnation of Abbie Hoffman or an ally of Osama bin Laden. What Republicans really see in Mr. Lieberman's loss is not a defeat in the war on terror but the specter of their own defeat. Mr. Lamont is but a passing embodiment of a fixed truth: most Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake and want some plan for a measured withdrawal. That truth would prevail even had Mr. Lamont lost.
A similar panic can be found among the wave of pundits, some of them self-proclaimed liberals, who apoplectically fret that Mr. Lamont's victory signals the hijacking of the Democratic Party by the far left (here represented by virulent bloggers) and a prospective replay of its electoral apocalypse of 1972. Whatever their political affiliation, almost all of these commentators suffer from the same syndrome: they supported the Iraq war and, with few exceptions (mainly at The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard), are now embarrassed that they did. Desperate to assert their moral superiority after misjudging a major issue of our time, they loftily declare that anyone who shares Mr. Lamont's pronounced opposition to the Iraq war is not really serious about the war against the jihadists who attacked us on 9/11.
That's just another version of the Cheney-Lieberman argument, and it's hogwash. Most of the 60 percent of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq also want to win the war against Al Qaeda and its metastasizing allies: that's one major reason they don't want America bogged down in Iraq. Mr. Lamont's public statements put him in that camp as well, which is why those smearing him resort to the cheap trick of citing his leftist great-uncle (the socialist Corliss Lamont) while failing to mention that his father was a Republican who served in the Nixon administration. (Mr. Lieberman, ever bipartisan, has accused Mr. Lamont of being both a closet Republican and a radical.)
In other words, ideological challenges to moderate candidates are a bad thing... except when they're not.