This is not Ronald Reagan's GOP
Forget the Grand Old Party. Today's maddening, intransigent GOP is a Gang of Purists
posted on July 14, 2011, at 3:50 PM
This was the week when the grand bargain on the debt ceiling all but died, when Republicans opted to continue impaling themselves on the hook of the Paul Ryan plan — because they really do want to voucherize and destroy Medicare.
House Speaker John Boehner, who had proposed the grand bargain, which the president then advanced in negotiations with both parties, abruptly abandoned it as his caucus rebelled and Majority Leader Eric Cantor schemed a coup to depose him.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who may care about the country but surely understands political strategy, then offered another path out of the box canyon into which Republicans have backed themselves — where they face the prospect of being blamed for collapsing the full faith and credit of the United States, cutting off Social Security checks, and perhaps shattering the national and global economies. McConnell's was a clever and cynical tactic: Give the president the authority to raise the debt limit in three tranches — any one of which Congress could override with a two-thirds majority in both houses — so Democrats would have to cast three votes for higher debt while Republicans could enjoy three votes against it and reinforce a campaign message. McConnell was supported by The Wall Street Journal — which is conservative, not crazy — but scorned by tea-baggers in and out of Congress who live in their own private fiscal world, which bears about as much relationship to economics as creationism does to science. Playing to the extremists, the lupine Cantor then escalated the confrontation by concocting a fable that the president stomped out of the debt talks at the White House; in fact, Obama had rejected Cantor's demands and the session was ending for the day. The president does live and work in the White House — much as Cantor and his ilk can't abide that — and as a matter of course, leaves when a meeting concludes.
Those who hate the government can't run the government — except into the ground.
This cheap attempt to make Obama look bad was too transparent to convince anyone other than Cantor's peanut gallery. But the episode and the entire course of events over the past week reveal the fundamentally misshapen character of today's Republican Party. It is not a governing party: As I've observed before, those who hate the government can't run the government — except into the ground.
Meanwhile, the GOP's presidential candidates are eagerly embracing — or being compelled to coddle — a far-out agenda. Most of them may be rooting for default, and some are claiming, incredibly, that it would be no big deal. (Maybe they should consult former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson about the crash of Lehman Brothers before they invite the mother of all financial crises.) And the only Republican presidential contenders who might have a plausible chance — Mitt Romney, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — are regarded with suspicion in their own ranks, less now for their Mormon religion than for the sin of occasionally looking reasonable. Indeed, this was also the week when two different polls showed Michele Bachman leading Romney in Iowa — by three or thirteen points — while other Republicans were longing for the candidacy of secession-friendly Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The dominant forces in today's GOP not only propose to roll back the history of the past 75 years; they have also betrayed their own history. They are not the Grand Old Party as we have known it; they are the Gang Of Purists — bent on the politics of polarization, their more sensible leaders held hostage to the threat of defenestration in the next round of primary contests. They invoke Ronald Reagan as their hero, but they are the real RINOs: Reaganites In Name Only. Indeed, they are out of step with every Republican president from Richard Nixon to yes, even George W. Bush, whom they openly disdain after giving him lock-step support while he was in office.
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