Saturday, July 03, 2010

Give 'em Enough Rope

It's become apparent that the best tactic for Democrats heading into this year's elections is to give Republicans lots of air time. Lately, if you hear the GOP leadership speaking one minute, you'll hear it apologizing and backpedaling the next.

When the Republicans were in ascendancy in the 1990s and 2000s, I recall that one thing they did well was to stay on message. In 1994, you didn't see conservatives touting the Contract for America on Monday, then backing away from their remarks on Tuesday. In 2000, it was clear that every Republican operative appearing on the cable news stations to spin nonsense about the recount in Florida had been given exactly the same talking points.

Today, things are different. For example, both GOP House leaders John Boehner and Joe Barton have found themselves on the defensive for their recent statements. As Rick Horowitz of the Janesville Gazette writes,

"Could John Boehner and Joe Barton really be undercover Democrats?...

With tens of thousands of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf every day, with incalculable damage being done to the water and to those who rely on it for habitat, for livelihood, Joe Barton makes a public show of apologizing to the spewers. He’s “ashamed,” he announces to the cameras, that the Obama White House has secured a commitment from BP to set aside $20 billion to help make the region whole again.

A “shakedown,” Joe Barton calls it, as Republican strategists cringe. Who in his right mind—or even his far-right mind—would say such a thing? Would align his party with the spewers, and against the victims?

And then comes Boehner. With the jobless rate still high, with the economic recovery still faltering, with people coast to coast desperate for help, John Boehner weighs in. John Boehner sits before a camera and compares the financial-reform legislation nearing passage in Congress to “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.”

“An ant.” That’s how John Boehner characterizes the financial meltdown, as Republican strategists start popping Valium by the fistful. Who in his right mind—or even his far-right mind—would say such a thing?"

But for John Boenher, remarks on financial reform were only one of several recent attacks of foot-in-mouth disease. The past few days have also seen him suggest that the retirement age for social security benefits should be raised to 70, and that those with other income should receive not benefits at all. These remarks will hardly endear him to America's most powerful voting block, senior citizens. Last but not least was Boehner's criticism of a new tax on tanning beds. That comes as pretty funny coming from a guy who's so in love with artificial tanning that he looks like an overgrown Oompa Loompa.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele is also in hot water this week, with fellow Republicans calling for his resignation after Steele's suggestion that the conflict in Afghanistan is, "a war of Obama's choosing."

But for some really far out remarks, we have to look to the Republican party's newest candidates for election. Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul expressed regret after appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show and stating that he doesn't support some aspects of the Civil Rights Act. Does he regret his remarks? No, of course not. He only regrets appearing on the show. Nevada's Sharron Angle is running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Like Rand Paul, candidate Angle has recently felt the need to duck reporters due to some controversial statements. Among these are Angle's beliefs that social security should be "transitioned out," America should bring back prohibition of alcohol, that if Americans don't like what Congress is doing, they might consider, "Second Amendment remedies," and that if a woman should become pregnant as a result of rape she should not have access to abortion services, because her pregnancy is part of "God's Plan."

For the high-information voter, there are also the Republican state Party platforms, which include many planks that, while they may endear some of the GOP faithful, are wildly out of touch with the general public. Consider the platforms of the Republican parties of Montana and Texas, both of which include the charming goal of reestablishing archaic sodomy laws long since struck down by the Supreme Court, with the object of again making homosexuality a criminal offense.

And for one last dose of, "how Republican leaders can make themselves even more unpopular," we have only to look at the day-to-day actions of its Congressional leaders. Just this past week, GOP Senators filibustered a bill that would give aid to homeless veterans and their children.

Finally, I was intrigued this week by a statement from Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, who was denied renomination by the Republican party this year:

"As I look out at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas," Bennett told The Ripon Society. "Indeed, if you raise specific ideas and solutions, as I’ve tried to do on health care with [Oregon Democratic Sen.] Ron Wyden, you are attacked with the same vigor as we’ve seen in American politics all the way back to slavery and polygamy; you are attacked as being a wimp, insufficiently pure, and unreliable."

I'm sorry Bob, but I have to disagree somewhat. The quotes I've reviewed in this post show that today's Republican leaders have lots of ideas. All terrible ones.

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