There's a couple of old statesmen you may have seen in the news lately. They've been dominating the political tv talk shows. One of them has been roundly criticized by Congressional Republicans, who basically told him shut up and go away. The other recently made remarks that National Republican Senate Committee Chairman referred to as, "terrible."
So who are these guys that are getting so much condemnation from Republicans? A couple of chatterbox Democrats? Nope. They're Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, two specters who seem determined to haunt the GOP forever.
You remember Newt, right? He used to be Speaker of the U.S. House. He forced the government to shut down in 1995 because he didn't like the seat that President Clinton gave him on Air Force One. In 1997, he was cited for ethics violations and in 1998 he pushed the impeachment of President Clinton over an affair in the White House while he himself was having an affair. After the 1998 elections, when his fellow Republicans decided that they didn't like him anymore and forced him to resign, he said, "I'm willing to lead but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals."
And you remember Dick, I'm sure. He's the former Vice President who insisted that the 9/11 highjackers were connected with Saddam Hussein as part of his pretext for going to war with Iraq, but who now admits that he never saw any intelligence connecting Hussein and the highjackers. He also continues to claim that Saddam Hussein was actively working with al qaeda. This of course was proven false years ago. Cheney also says that detainees interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp revealed that Iraq had trained al qaeda operatives in chemical and biological warfare. Guess what? This is also untrue. Yes, Cheney is very big on interrogation of prisoners. He's also recently claimed that CIA documents prove that torture has yielded valuable intelligence information. More guess what? This claim is also untrue. Finally, to bring this paragraph full circle, I'd like to mention one more thing about the former VP that's kept him in the news. It's been revealed that during the run up to the war in Iraq, he ordered the torture of a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was "suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection." The object of torturing this person was, of course, to try to gin up ties between Iraq and al qaeda as a pretext for the war. And of course Cheney ordered the torture even though the Bush administration has already been informed that torture often yields false confessions.
And look! Dick and Newt are now a dynamic duo: it's the Torture Works Tour!
For all practical purposes Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich (along with a certain obese junkie radio host who shall remain nameless) are the leaders and spokesmen of today's Republican Party. Neither one holds any official position either in public office or within the Party. Cheney's approval rating stood at 15% this time last year, while Gingrich's was at 25% while he was Speaker of the House over a decade ago.
So why doesn't the GOP get serious about making Dick and Newt go away? Perhaps it's because the official Republican leadership may actually be less popular, as hard as that is to believe. House Minority Leader John Boehner currently registers a 15% approval rating, just ahead of the Republican Congressional caucus as a whole, coming in at 12%.
Did I mention that President Obama's current approval rating is 67%? Hey, Dick and Newt, please, just keeping right on talking.