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Feb 28  KERA

It couldn’t be clearer that John McCain will be the Republican nominee for president, barring some unforeseen calamity. But calamity is exactly what they’re expecting in the far-right wing of the party if the senator from Arizona prevails. Rush Limbaugh has predicted that McCain’s nomination would mean the end of the GOP. James Dobson has said he would rather stay at home than vote for John McCain. Ann Coulter would take Hillary Clinton over the dreaded John McCain.

What’s going on?  What are they trying to accomplish? These are politically sophisticated people. While they no doubt are playing to their own crowd, they cannot be dismissed as simply hysterical, too upset to be taken seriously.

Do they really believe that Mike Huckabee at this point can head off the horror that haunts them? Not likely. Would they truly prefer a Democrat in the White House? Yes, they would. Because these are not half-a-loaf people. They must have 100 percent of what they want or they won’t play.

What they fear most was encapsulated in something said by Jeanne Tower Cox, daughter of former Sen. John Tower, a Republican of the center: “Let’s stop talking about them as the base. Were the base.”  That would be the unbearable loss for the right wing. That’s what must be prevented no matter what, even if it means bringing troops home from Iraq, funding family-planning  at the United Nations,  civil unions for gays and a moderate majority on the Supreme Court. All that must be endured to save the far-right to fight another day.  Not everybody believes these are bad ideas, but ask Ann Coulter what she thinks of them.

We know the answer. Even so, the knives are out. The fix is in. The true intention of Limbaugh, Dobson, Coulter et al is to defeat John McCain in November so they can argue in the melancholy aftermath that only a conservative who’s entirely of their ilk, with no deviation whatsoever, can win.

Failing that, if they could force Mike Huckabee onto the ticket with McCain, that would  help. But this is a move the senator must not make. If elected to two terms, McCain would be 80 years old when he leaves office. A vice president of national stature, more broadly gauged than the preacher-politician from Arkansas, attuned to science and well acquainted with the world, is absolutely essential in this case.

It’s the Democrats who long have been known for squabbling their way to powerlessness. Not any longer. Even the anti-war gang has disciplined itself to the task at hand. And the racial squall in South Carolina was quickly calmed. But the best thing going for Democrats at the moment, aside from two extraordinary candidates, is the Limbaugh-Dobson-Coulter cabal, a perfect antidote to the spoiling of Ralph Nader. If they keep it up, Obama or Clinton should start packing for the White House.