11/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Draws Internal Battle Lines Around Sarah Palin

With the GOP looking more and more set to fracture as the possibility of electoral defeat looms, the cannibals' knives are out. Consider this quote, via Yglesias:

Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush, dismissed Mrs Palin's critics as "cocktail party conservatives" who "give aid and comfort to the enemy".

He told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"

Hold it now. They're serious about going all in with the Palin loyalty test? Uhm...apparently so! Nuzzo adds:

He said: "Win or lose, there is a ready made conservative candidate waiting in the wings. Sarah Palin is not the new Iain Duncan Smith, she is the new Ronald Reagan."

Yowee. So, for the sake of Sarah Palin -- who many conservatives correctly assessed as the candidate-born-yesterday -- a whole slew of Republicans-in-good-standing are going to be thrown under the bus? That's a serious civil war, or rather, a war betwixt the Serious and the Un-Serious. Keep in mind that Palin's critics are not marginal figures in the conservative movement. We're talking the aforementioned Brooks and Noonan and Frum, and we're adding Christopher Buckley, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Colin Powell, Charles Krauthammer, Matthew Dowd, and for the sake of argument, we'll throw in Chuck Hagel, Andrew Sullivan, and Christopher Hitchens, even though I hesitate to pin any of them to any sort of doctrinaire conservative group.

This is, indeed, a "bloodbath," and for what? A distinctly semi-pro Alaskan governor who's more or less made the charisma-free Tim Pawlenty look like What Could Have Been?

Additionally, this sort of line-in-the-sand drawing avoids another obvious truth -- come 2012, someone besides Palin is going to vie for the GOP nomination. Someone like, say, Mitt Romney, who famously earned the backing of the National Review, which called him a "full-spectrum conservative." What happens to Romney, now that he's on the wrong side of the Palin line? Because that's where he is:

Former Mitt Romney presidential campaign staffers, some of whom are currently working for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin's bid for the White House, have been involved in spreading anti-Palin spin to reporters, seeking to diminish her standing after the election. "Sarah Palin is a lightweight, she won't be the first, not even the third, person people will think of when it comes to 2012," says one former Romney aide, now working for McCain-Palin. "The only serious candidate ready to challenge to lead the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. He's in charge on November 5th."


Some former Romney aides were behind the recent leaks to media, including CNN, that Governor Sarah Palin was a "diva" and was going off message intentionally. The former and current Romney supporters further are pushing Romney supporters for key Republican jobs, including head of the Republican National Committee.

If I read this right, the GOP is set splinter into a trio of factions: the Palin-philes, the Romney remainders, and those excommunicated from the movement for daring to make a lick of sense at one point. Fitting isn't it, that a McCain loss might precipitate his party coming to resemble the factionalism of the Iraqi misadventure they all cooked up in the first place. Maybe Joe Biden can help them reach some sort of triple-partition solution!