Is this the new Republican Party, fearlessly transforming itself after failing to roust the Muslim Marxist Mau Mau Marauder and losing seats in both houses of Congress? Is this the GOP's painful soul-searching in the face of its accelerating demographic march into national irrelevancy?
Is this all they got?
* * *
Speaking in Charlotte to the Republican National Committee, Louisiana Gov. and presumed presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal issued a clarion call: "We must stop being the stupid party," he proclaimed.
Upon deplaning in Baton Rouge the next morning he vowed to seek repeal of the bill that allows state funds to go toward teaching Louisiana children that once upon a time cavemen played fetch with dinosaurs, some of whom may have been fire-breathing dragons. "What the heck was I thinking when I signed that stupid thing?" he wondered aloud. After lunch he appointed a blue-ribbon commission to study the danger posed to the Louisiana coastline by manmade climate change. "Boy," he said, "would it be stupid to ignore 99% of the world's scientists or what?"
Jindal went on to say in Charlotte that Republicans had to knock it off with the "offensive and bizarre comments." And then, "We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. . . . We have to stop dumbing down our ideas . . . ." This after suggesting that most of the federal government could be replaced by "a handful of good websites."
Not as "offensive and bizarre" as last year's Todd Akin-Richard Mourdock traveling war-on-women freak show, but dumbed-down? And really, truly, deeply stupid? Oh, yeah. Soon he'll be forgetting the third federal department he wants to fling upon the ash heap of history.
* * *
Eric Cantor gave a much-hyped speech - a big speech, full of big ideas. The biggest idea was . . . wait for it . . . repealing the medical-device tax. A surefire crowd pleaser to rehabilitate the party's image in swing counties of Ohio and Virginia, you betcha. The House majority leader's remarks made such an impact that forty-eight hours later people around Washington were asking, "Hey, wasn't Cantor supposed to give some sort of speech or other?"
* * *
Enter Karl Rove with a new floating crap game, the American Victory Project, to add to his collection. With this one he intends to thwart the wacko GOP primary voters who nominate witches, warlocks, and circus clowns to run for the Senate. (Folks like that belong in the House, damn it!) Step aside, amateurs. Let a pro take the reins.
Except that this is the same Karl Rove who in 2012 fleeced a bunch of billionaires for some three or four hundred million smackers, which sloshed down the toilet along with the electoral outcomes of nearly every candidate he backed. The one who on Election Night forced Megyn Kelly to trot over to the decision desk so that the wonks there could confirm that he was delusional. The one behind the presidency of the self-(seminude-)portraitist who left office with an approval rating south of Tierra del Fuego.
And then he unleashes a vicious attack ad on . . . Ashley Judd? "An Obama-following radical Hollywood liberal" is what she is - that's some fresh, never-before-heard Republican language for you.
This is the mastermind who will save the Republican Party from itself?
* * *
For a while John Boehner was actually behaving as though he's speaker of the House of Representatives, not its restroom attendant, as he's appeared to be the last two years. Despite opposition from a majority of his caucus he put on the brakes before the freight train of state could tumble over the fiscal cliff, and when the debt ceiling needed to be extended he convinced most of his flock that worldwide economic crisis might not be the best thing for the party (or the country). But the debt will be poking its nasty head through the ceiling in three months and the "sequester" is about to wreak its doom and destruction - all because GOP lawmakers insist that the deficit is horrible, sickening, radix malorum, and therefore . . . they will oppose any and all attempts to raise taxes or cut military spending.
Now comes the president's proposal to up the minimum wage, and Boehner's stuck opposing it - just the thing to disabuse Americans of the notion that the Republican Party's raison d'être is keeping the rich rich and the poor poor. And while we all get that lawmakers of different parties sit and rise at different points during a State of the Union address, was he so determined to demonstrate oneness with the Republican base - and its scorn toward the voting rights of people with dark skin - that he had to sit on his tukhis while even many Republicans were on their feet to applaud the 102-year-old woman who had waited hours to cast her ballot? What's next, a special edition of "Meet the Press," on location at the banks of the Potomac, with the speaker personally drowning a litter of puppies?
The GOP establishment rode the Tea Party tiger to a House majority in 2010. But the problem with riding a tiger is that sooner or later the tiger figures out who's doing all the work.
Then it eats you.
* * *
Marco, Marco, Marco. Poor thirsty boy.
Senator Rubio gave the SOTU response, displaying not only imperfect control of his bodily functions but all the gravitas of a junior-high-school class president.
His earnest manner aside, he delivered your basic GOP boilerplate - more government bad, less government good - without offering any plausible suggestions about, you know, actually solving problems. And, Clint Eastwood-like, he debated imaginary Barack: Obama believes the "free-enterprise system" is "the cause of our problems. . . . And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more."
Apparently the Florida wunderkind and his babysitters didn't stop to think that most people watching his speech had just watched the president's and didn't any hear such thing. Oh, and Rubio's support of immigration reform, supposedly leading the way in the GOP's attempt to persuade Latinos that it doesn't hold them in contempt? He's already looking for excuses to back out of it. (Prediction: He'll find them.)
Just as athletes suffer from the Sports Illustrated Curse, Rubio was (dry) toast as soon as Time magazine touted him on its cover as "The Republican Savior." Savior? Look, if Jesus were giving the Republican response he would have come up with something more original than rehashing the fight over Obamacare - an argument the Supremes decided last June, with the electorate ratifying the decision in November. I mean, when He said it was okay to eat pork it opened up vast new opportunities for economic development -- especially in Iowa, where hog farming is big business.
Turning pigs into Sunday dinner helped make the state what it is today: among other things, home to a population of GOP evangelicals who will decide the opening contest when the party chooses its next standard bearer in 2016. Republican voters in Iowa, along with their fellow right-wing purists around the nation, must have loved Rubio's speech. Everyone not in the choir Rubio was preaching to? No doubt unimpressed.
* * *
John McCain and Lindsey Graham weren't going to go soft on Chuck Hagel, even though he used to be one of McCain's acolytes (perhaps until he realized that the old guy was, well, tetched), if not the lap dog Graham is. McCain and Graham oppose Hagel's nomination and, for the time being, refuse to allow the Senate to vote on it.
Blocking a cabinet appointment is serious stuff -- McGraham and their fellow Republican senators must have some damn good reasons for making Leon Panetta put off watering his walnut trees. What are they? Well, apparently Hagel once said that hummus from Israel can't hold a candle to hummus from Syria. Or something.
Really, the whole sad display boils down to four things: 1) the Republicans want to keep sticking it to Obama, just as they've been doing the past four years, 2) Hagel, a Republican, years ago committed the unforgivable sin of dumping out a tankerload of undrunk GOP Kool-Aid and rejoining the reality-based community, 3) they want to stick it to Harry Reid, and show him what a chump he was for not fixing the filibuster when he had the chance, and 4) they want to relitigate the Iraq War and all of Bush foreign policy. McCain in particular wants to keep shouting that he and Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and all the miserable neocons were right about Iraq, right about the War on Terror, right about the Axis of Evil -- even though in the world of fact, not fantasy, the depth of their bad judgment and incompetence would be Keystone Kop-comical had the result not been tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of needless deaths.
* * *
At least McCain had the decency to tell the GOP's new darling, Senator Ted Cruz, the McCarthyite Ivy Leaguer from Texas, where to get off after his attacks on Hagel hit sewer level. So obnoxious that even Republican senators don't like him, Cruz gets off on breaking the rules of civility in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. "I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo," he told the New York Times. "That is what I intend to do . . . ." The bravery of Chuck Hagel humping the boonies in Vietnam, it seems, is nothing compared to Cruz's valor in seeking the truth about the secdef wannabe, "even if doing so inevitably subjects me to personal criticism from Democrats and the media." (Not to mention gushing admiration from the Republican base and their wingnut leaders. "This guy's terrific," raves Rushbo.)
Cruz assailed Hagel for not providing every detail of his financial life, because without that information who knows where the nominee gets his money? From Saudi Arabia? North Korea? Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the climate denier known to all who love learning as the Einstein of the Senate, seconded Cruz's line of attack: Why, the mullahs in Tehran endorsed Hagel, he said. "You can't get any cozier than that." Hagel even sent them a cake in the shape of a key! (Wait, that was someone else.)
Cruz has a point. Without the Senate's combing over every line on Hagel's 1040 we might never find out that he's an honorary prince in the House of Saud. Chances are better than even that he's Kim Jong Un's Manchurian Candidate, ready to inflict mayhem at the flip of a card during a game of Texas Hold 'Em in the Pentagon cafeteria.
It stands to reason.
* * *
Jindal, Cantor, Rove, Boehner, Rubio, McCain, Graham, Cruz. The Republican Party has learned not a thing from last year's election.
Some argue that the GOP as we know it is in its death throes. Maybe, but it can still do grievous damage to the nation, and the world, before it finally takes its long-overdue last breath.
Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy four years.