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Paper Mooned (Or, The Republicans: Crazy, or Nuts?)

Take one step back from this carnival of make-believe and let's-pretend, and it becomes clear: the Republican Party has become an aggregation of people who prefer to live in a world of fantasy.
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Say it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
It's the Party of Make-Believe
It's called the G.O.P.

First Ann Coulter tells us Joseph McCarthy was a national hero. Now Jonah Goldberg tells us the Nazis were leftists (never mind all those socialists and communists they killed, or their close collaboration with private industry,), and that liberals are fascists because some of them, like Hitler, are vegetarians. "The Nazis took food very, very seriously," Goldberg writes, in case any of us thought the Nazis didn't take food seriously.

First President Bush tells us Osama Bin Laden is our mortal enemy. Then he tells us he doesn't think about him very much. We were attacked by Saudi Arabians living in Afghanistan, so under Bush's command we attack Iraq and declare "Mission Accomplished."

First Dick Cheney says we'll be welcomed as liberators; then he says the insurgency is in its "last throes" when, really, it's in its first throes. And we're not allowed to know which energy companies are helping him to write energy policy so that they feel secure.

Bush says God speaks to him, then he vetoes health insurance for children. Pat Robertson says God caused Hurricane Katrina because homosexuals are wicked (and Jerry Falwell agrees), but fails to explain why God didn't send a hurricane at New York, L.A., or San Francisco, where the real homosexuals live.

Alberto Gonzalez (not the Attorney Corporal or the Attorney Captain -- the Attorney General) can't remember anything and can't remember what he said he can't remember. Clarence Thomas, the greatest beneficiary of affirmative action in history and a man who has risen to literally the highest position possible for someone in his profession, is against affirmative action, feels victimized and sorry for himself, is angry at almost everybody, and doesn't really "like" the job.

Condoleezza Rice warns us that Saddam has nuclear weapons ready to create a "mushroom cloud" when, as intelligence reports said, he didn't. Meanwhile Pakistan, which does have nuclear weapons, is paid billions of dollars and its military dictator is coddled and proclaimed a "good friend" while one of his physicists sells nukes to all comers and Al Qaeda is allowed to frolic free on his border. Now Musharraf and his government face collapse and chaos while Rice worries about her "legacy."

Larry Craig says he's not gay but is caught soliciting gay sex. Mark Foley says he's not gay but is caught flirting with and hustling male Congressional pages. David Vitter is vigorously in favor of "abstinence education" but is caught cavorting (in a diaper) with prostitutes.

William Bennett, who pontificates about "virtue," is an avid gambler.

Rush Limbaugh, who has said that the way to treat people who illegally use drugs is to "find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river," is caught illegally using drugs (and admits to it) but is not, himself, sent up the river.

And now look: of the two leading Republican candidates for president, one is a man who takes the Bible literally and doesn't "believe in" evolution, while the other is a man whose religion holds that Jesus came to America, that Native Americans are descendants of the Hebrews of Israel, and that early (2200 BC-600 BC) inhabitants of North America migrated here from the Middle East. With chariots.

Mike Huckabee believes in the Rapture. Mitt Romney believes in the transparently-fraudulent Book of Mormon. And these two cartoon characters, Mike 'n' Mitt, are the GOP front-runners for the White House.

Take one step back from this carnival of make-believe and let's-pretend, and it becomes clear: The Republican Party has become an aggregation of people who prefer to live in a world of fantasy -- and their first fantasy, the Ur-myth on which the entire conceit rests, is (classically) "we are the realists."

It degrades, into farce and Newspeak, from there. The perpetrators and defenders of the outing of a CIA agent are "patriots." Tom DeLay is a "leader" and Newt Gingrich is a "visionary." The President plays guitar while New Orleans drowns, causes a hundred thousand Americans and Iraqis to be killed or injured, and outsources torture, and it's the Democrats who, per the repellent Ramesh Ponnuru, are the "party of death."

It's one thing to praise "faith." It's another to be, not only indifferent to the idea of objective truth, but actively hostile to it -- unless, of course, like any other good psychopath, they're not aware of their condition. Who knows what they really think is going on in the U.S., in the world, and in their own heads?

Does George W. Bush really believe that he is a good Christian? Does he really believe he's a "compassionate conservative"? Does Ann Coulter mean what she writes? Does Dick Cheney think he's done a good job? Does Rudy Giuliani mean well?

We don't know. We probably can't know. They probably don't know. They don't want to know. Do we want to know? I don't know.

I do know this: When the Supreme Court halted the vote-counting in Florida in 2000 and anointed Bush president, it was the equivalent of dropping that gang of boys on that island in Lord of the Flies. Actually, it was worse: they didn't have any adult supervision. The administration, supposedly, did. But the adults, in the form of the Democrats and the media, were too intimidated (by the tragedy of 9-11, by their corporate masters, by careerist insecurity) to do any supervising.

And so for seven years, under the watchful eye of the genial, soulless Karl Rove, Republicans from sea to shining sea pigged out, yielding to their most gluttonous impulses and indulging their pettiest proclivities. The result? Like Saddam Hussein's (evil, awful) sons, the Republican Party, drunk on power and unmediated by any sensible outside force, went fucking insane.

Yes, we've all enjoyed an easy laugh or two, identifying their obvious hypocrisies and compiling mile-long lists of their lies. But let's not be disingenuous: The sex scandals and the corruption; the no-bid contracts and the sweetheart deals; the payoffs and the fired U.S. Attorneys, the missing billions in Iraq and the incriminating emails that either are or aren't destroyed -- look, nobody's perfect. The Democrats have their own skeletons rattling around in their own walk-in closets.

But read the above rundown and add the ten thousand things there isn't room enough to cite... Factor out the witting lies and brute propaganda... Take out the deceptions they committed on purpose (or think they did), and just leave the stuff about which they are (or think they are) sincere, and you get a picture of mass pathology.

It has gotten so that you have to muster all the compassion and understanding of which you are capable just to think of the Republicans as a party of greedy corporatists manipulating the credulous, the provincial, and the bigoted. That's the nice way of putting it. But it doesn't capture the full picture of the sheer moral and intellectual decay of these people and this institution.

Are you happy now, Bill Buckley? Is this your idea of an honorable and worthy political party, Newt Gingrich? Is this what you mean by "conservative," Bill Kristol? Does it make you proud to be their apologist, David Brooks? Is there anything here you'd like to defend, Peggy Noonan? Glad to be one of the gang, Fred Barnes? Pleased with what you've accomplished, Brit Hume?

Of course, they could all answer, "You bet!" and claim to have deliberately engineered all of this on purpose and with open eyes. Which would really be sick.