Ed Driscoll

Dana Milbank's Addition Through Subtraction

As Glenn Reynolds Insta-quips, “Dana Milbank helpfully Voxplains that if Obama loses the Senate next year, it will actually be a good thing.” In a piece titled “For Obama, loss of the Senate could be freeing,” the leftwing Washington Post journalist writes:

As President Obama fails to get any credit for the millions who have found jobs or gained health-care coverage on his watch, a nonpartisan Quinnipiac poll this week found that 33 percent of Americans consider him to be the worst president since World War II, besting (or worsting, as it were) George W. Bush and leaving Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon in the dust.

No wonder this bear wants to break loose. And maybe he will — if Republicans take control of the Senate.

Crazy talk, you say? Maybe so. The prevailing view is that a Republican Senate would only compound Obama’s woes by bottling up confirmations, doubling the number of investigations and chipping away at Obamacare and other legislative achievements.

Yet there’s a chance that having an all-Republican Congress would help Obama — and even some White House officials have wondered privately whether a unified Republican Congress would be better than the current environment. Republicans, without Harry Reid to blame, would own Congress — a body that inspires a high level of confidence in just 7 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup survey last month finding Congress at a new low and at the bottom of all institutions tested.

I’ve this movie before. Back in February of 2011, Noemie Emery of the right-leaning crosstown rival Washington Examiner ominously forecasted that, “For 2012, GOP’s best hope may be losing:”

People like Obama more than his ideas, and his chances will only get better as people realize he will never be able to pass his agenda. If re-elected, he may pass six of eight years politically neutered. An Obama safely under House (and probably Senate) arrest might be just what the public would want.

Then, after two terms of a left-wing but neutered Obama, the voters might want the next big Republican president. And here we confront the real crux of the problem: A so-so Republican who knocks off a weakened Obama may also weaken the next great conservative star.

If a Republican wins, no one from the class of 2009-2010 can run until 2020, and if a Republican wins in 2016, it gives him an almost insurmountable burden: only three times in the 20th century has a party extended its run for three terms.

A President Pawlenty or Daniels may come at the cost of a President Rubio, who might have united the party, excited the young and vastly expanded the reach of the party. Would it be worth it? Your call.

Strategic thinking too far in the future can often be folly, the victim of many unknowns. Hillary Clinton schemed for eight years, and prepared for everything except for Obama; many Democrats passed on 1992, as there would be plenty of time to run later; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., edged ahead of Obama and was preparing his victory lap on the surge when the fiscal implosion put paid to all that.

That said, Republicans facing 2012 may have two choices: Hang Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., by his feet out the window until he comes to terms with his destiny; or pick a common-sense nominee who can give Obama a run for his money — and quietly hope he will lose.

Since we’re not exploring how well the first two years of President Romney and his administration are doing, arguably, Republicans took the last option that Emery suggested — certainly enough conservatives slept through 2012 to make her prediction a fait accompli.

In October of 2010, facing the strongest GOP headwind in ages, Benjamin Sarlin of the Daily Beast looked at the folly of political “addition through subtraction” from the same side of the aisle as Milbank this past week, at the conclusion of his article titled, “Five Signs the Dems are Doomed:”

5. We Totally Wanted to Lose Anyway

The final phase of the party meltdown after denial, anger, and depression: acceptance. Once it becomes clear that a major loss is inevitable, expect a spate of op-eds making the case that it’s actually in the party’s best interest to give up its majorities. They may even have a good argument, but their very existence is about as ill an omen as it gets. One typical silver lining cited by pundits is that a midterm loss will boost the party’s chances in the next presidential election. Salon’s Mark Greenbaum runs with this idea, for example, arguing that the minority party’s new governing responsibilities will expose them to tougher criticism and give Obama a handy foil to rally his troops against.

“Sure, a GOP House could mean endless investigations and subpoenas, but it would also give the president a better chance at winning a second term in 2012,” Greenbaum writes.

As Republicans faced their own wipeout in 2006, conservative commentators penned plenty of pieces along the same lines. Ramesh Ponnuru took to The New York Times in September to explain that “if Republicans play their cards right, and the Democrats prove unequal to the task of running the House, the voters could put the Republicans back in power on Capitol Hill in 2008.”

Could 2014 equal a Senatorial version of the Republican Congressional landslide of 2010? Well, Milbank is certainly acting that way — but it’s up to voters angry over Obamacare and the president’s myriad other disasters to send his administration — and the craven Democrats who allowed it to happen — a well-needed lesson.

And thus one of the rare moments where one of Milbank’s political desires coming true would a good thing. C’mon voters, make it happen!