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Purists' price

Politics is a messy business. But majorities require compromise and commitment.

Issue: "Soldiering on," May 27, 2006

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner are fine and influential writers, and genuine conservatives.

And they have arrived at opposite positions on the elections of 2006.

Mr. Geraghty cautions conservatives that if they stay home in the fall, they will have no one to blame but themselves when Congress lurches left. Mr. Tapscott counters that the GOP Congress is so disappointing as to deserve a rebuke in the races of 2006.

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Both are correct, but only one is prudent.

If the Republicans lose control of the United States Senate, or even forfeit a net of three seats in the upper body of the Congress, it is almost certain that George W. Bush will not be able to get a third conservative justice confirmed should the opportunity arise.

If Patrick Leahy returns to the chairmanship of the Senate's Judiciary Committee that he held after fellow Vermonter Jim Jeffords deserted the GOP in 2001, no genuine judicial conservative will clear the first hurdle on the way to confirmation. Sen. Leahy's record proves that.

Even if the GOP holds a nominal majority after the smoke clears in November, expect unbreakable filibusters if there are not at least 50 solid votes to invoke the "constitutional option" which the Democrats dread-a ruling from the chair that judicial nominees cannot be filibustered, but must be given "up-or-down" votes.

So a Supreme Court poised to return to originalist practices and traditional decision making will in fact be just a vote or two in the Senate beyond reach.

And then the "purists" will have their "victory."

Politics is a messy business. But majorities require compromise and commitment. The best result is to threaten disengagement, and then to work harder than ever for a conservative triumph.

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