Peggy Noonan pretty much gets the diagnosis right:
On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party. It’s going to change it forever, be the end of it!”
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
Were there other causes? Yes, of course. But there was an immediate and essential cause.
And this needs saying, because if you don’t know what broke the elephant you can’t put it together again. The party cannot re-find itself if it can’t trace back the moment at which it became lost. It cannot heal an illness whose origin is kept obscure.
I believe that some of the ferocity of the pundit wars is due to a certain amount of self-censorship. It’s not in human nature to enjoy self-censorship. The truth will out, like steam from a kettle. It hurts to say something you supported didn’t work. I would know. But I would say of these men (why, in the continuing age of Bill Clinton, does the emoting come from the men?) who are fighting one another as they resist naming the cause for the fight: Sack up, get serious, define. That’s the way to help.