Publius at ObWings recently brought up a point that most seem to miss.
[T]he problem with Warner isn’t that he puts politics first. The problem is that he puts politics first while pretending not to do so. Few can furrow their brow on the Sunday morning talk shows better than Warner. But when push comes to shove, Warner never really did anything different than people like Inhofe.
Indeed, never underestimate the value of principled “moderates” to the overall GOP effort. The kabuki generally runs like this: George Bush proposes some extravagant new executive power, say legal sanction to pull the legs off of kittens. The Democrats reasonably agree (mostly) that pulling legs off of kittens is wrong, but usually lack the party discipline and/or the overall votes to stop the president on their own. Worse, nothing terrifies Democrats more than the thought that somebody might call them soft on terrorism for denying the president the power to deal with the awful kitten leg threat. The thought of David Broder calling them partisan practically reduces Democratic leaders to tears.
Mirabile dictu!, some combination of John McCain, John Warner, Lindsay Graham and Arlen Specter will step up and announce grave, serious concerns about the president delimbing kittens, dangling the possibility of sustaining a kitten-leg filibuster. Hey, Harry Ried says, let’s let these guys take the lead! Take that, David Broder! A month later the very concerned Republicans announce a compromise that looks almost exactly like what the president proposed in the first place. Blue dogs vote GOP, of course, leaving Harry Reid looking like a twice-fooled chump. Kittens lose. It happened so often that I named a post category after it.