IN 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. famously declared that the purpose of conservatism was "to stand athwart history, yelling 'Stop,' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."
That astoundingly witty remark was a rueful acknowledgement of the uphill challenge facing the nascent American right, half a century ago — trying to halt the forward movement of a self-confident liberal left that was utterly certain it could make the world a better place through government action and forced social change.
Who could have imagined, reading Buckley's words in 1955, that 50 years later the liberal left would have adopted Buckley's screaming "Stop" as its mantra? Only there's nothing whimsically philosophical about the Democratic "Stop," as there was in Buckley's case. Rather, there's something primal about it, something desperate, something heartbroken and enraged.
Judges appointed by a twice-elected president who received the greatest number of votes in American history? STOP!
Find new sources of domestic oil to combat our dependence on Middle East petroleum? STOP!
A nominee for U.N. ambassador who has been confirmed four times previously by the Senate and whose views clearly dovetail with the president who nominated him? STOP!
Certainly, Democrats and liberals will be thrilled and emboldened if they succeed in their disgraceful and repellent efforts to torpedo John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador through venal acts of character assassination. But Bolton's defeat will only lead the ornery Bush to appoint someone else Democrats might despise even more — and they will only be able to rally their energies to this cause once.
Certainly they will be thrilled if Senate Republican leader Bill Frist is unable to muster the 50 GOP senators he will need to rewrite the rules and end the ability of Democrats to filibuster judicial nominees.
But what will they have to show for it? The defeat of the Clinton health-care plan depressed and debilitated Democrats and the Clinton administration. The defeat of Bolton and the continuing filibuster of judicial nominees will only serve to enrage the Republican base — and Bush won't change his foreign policy because Bolton isn't at the United Nations to help advance it.