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E.J. Dionne writes that Clint Eastwood and Rick Santorum both demonstrated the limits of negative politics, in his column, “Clint, Rick, And The Limits Of Pessimism:”

What do Rick Santorum and Clint Eastwood have in common?

Sorry Rick, you haven’t made it yet as an Eastwood-style make-my-day cultural icon. But in different ways, Santorum and Eastwood have demonstrated the limits of both an entirely negative slant on politics and a pessimistic take on America’s future.

Santorum’s Tuesday sweep of Republican presidential contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado was a sharp rebuke to Mitt Romney, the on-again, off-again “inevitable” GOP nominee who has built his campaign almost entirely on attacks. His primary target has been President Obama, but Romney has also been relentless in his assaults on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who admittedly gives him a lot of material to work with.

What Romney has failed to do is give voters strong reasons to be for him. He’s missing what Richard Nixon (yes, that Nixon) called “the lift of a driving dream.” And signs of economic improvement are making Romney’s critiques of the Obama economy more problematic by the week. In the meantime, Santorum keeps getting more appealing simply by staying out of the Romney-Gingrich slugfest.

As for Eastwood, his Super Bowl ad for Chrysler led many conservatives to reveal themselves as whiny complainers incapable of celebrating the achievements of American enterprise and public policy. To paraphrase the late Jeane Kirkpatrick’s effective 1984 jab at Democrats, Republicans always blame American government first. If government (and, God forbid, Obama) had anything to do with the revival of the American auto industry, let’s not dare be happy about its comeback.

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