KRISTOL REFLECTS ON 2001…. The Washington Post‘s Bill Kristol tries to make the case that Arlen Specter’s party switch may benefit Republicans, just as Jim Jeffords’ switch did in 2001.
On May 24, 2001, I wrote an op-ed for The Post in the wake of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords’s party switch. I argued that the switch, which cost Republicans control of the Senate, could well turn out to be good for President Bush.
Not entirely for the reasons I speculated on in the op-ed, I turned out to be right. Bush was still able to get enough cooperation to govern over the next year and a half, and he was also able to run successfully against the Democratic Senate in the fall of 2002. The GOP regained control that November.
Actually, I remember 2001 and 2002 a little differently than Kristol does. When Jeffords gave up on the Republican Party, it was evidence of a GOP moving in the wrong direction. Then-President Bush’s approval ratings were headed south, and Democrats were expecting to make gains in the midterms.
Kristol notes that Bush was “able to get enough cooperation to govern” in 2001 and 2002, and the GOP made gains in the midterms, but he neglects to mention that the political world shifted dramatically after Sept. 11, 2001. After the attacks, and the support the president received, getting “enough cooperation to govern” wasn’t really a problem.
As I recall, it had a little something to do with Republicans’ political fortunes at the time.