Has the conservative “base”, that far right fringe movement born from rabid talk radio hosts and echo-chamber cable “news” and blog sites, finally gone to far?
Nah. Or at least, I seriously doubt it. Once the current debacle in the House is finished, I’m sure everything will return to the status quo level of dysfunctional. Still it is nice to see reality begin to dawn on a few people, not that they will learn anything from it.
First up? Columnist Kathleen Parker. Kathleen, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is far from the worst conservative columnist in the nation, known for her rare (among conservative pundits) ability to see and accept reality (to a certain extent.) Back in 2008, Parker was one of the first conservatives to realize how much of a mistake picking Sarah Palin as VP was, writing in her column:
It was fun while it lasted.
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.
Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage, and there’s not much content there.
As much as I disagree with her politically, she is far from the rabid nonsense generators who make up the majority of Republican punditry. Her past work, her awards, and her spot at The Washington Post combine to make her a respected voice in the beltway, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to see her latest column.
McCarthy’s fall wasn’t only owing to his verbal blunder suggesting that the House select committee investigating Benghazi was primarily created to bring down Hillary Clinton. Like Speaker John Boehner, he was jerked around by the three dozen or so members of the Freedom Caucus who promised a bloc vote in exchange for public pledges, which McCarthy (to his credit) refused to make.
He simply didn’t have enough votes.
By Friday, the hands-down favorite to take the spot was Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who vehemently has said he doesn’t want the job. Indeed, who in his or her right mind would want to walk into this seething ring of “winning” losers?
Poor Paul Ryan. It will take strength to resist his supporters’ call to duty – Ryan’s sweet spot. Editors of the conservative National Review were among those making this appeal, while also suggesting that Ryan would surely want to redefine the fundraising part – the demands of which leave little time for family.
This mention brings us to an important point apparently overlooked by the extortionist Freedom Caucus. They’ve booted two of their membership’s top three fundraisers with Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his seat last year to a tea party candidate, and now have rejected the third, McCarthy.
Not only have these three brought in the biggest hauls through their campaigns and political action committees, but they’ve also been the most generous – including to those who now smite them.
The Freedom Caucus’ own preferred choice for speaker, Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, has raised $5.6 million since his election in 2010 and shared just 2 percent of that amount, according to opensecrets.org, which monitors such things.
Methinks those who protest way too much will miss the generosity of those they stabbed in the back. Ryan, meanwhile, would do well to let history guide him. No good deed goes unpunished with this crowd. Soon enough, the Freedom Caucus gang will make life miserable for the next speaker, and then what?
Whoever takes the job had best have no further aspirations. This isn’t to diminish the office, which is a noble position and no meager endgame. But few think Ryan has no higher aspirations. Thus, the question isn’t should he run for speaker, but why should he?
Okay, I can hear you already. “Yeah Foster, so what? Kathleen Parker admits reality? What else is new? Hell, the Tea Party considers her not just a RINO but a straight up liberal.” So let’s take a few steps down the sanity scale until we reach one Byron York, author of, gag, The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. (Amazing that “I know you are, but what am I?” seems to be an effective political strategy in modern day America, isn’t it?) He lacks Kathleen Parker’s ability, intelligence, and awards, yet even he can smell the Freedom Caucus’ stench:
The fact is, the chaos plaguing Republicans in the House has been building for a long time. It’s no wonder some GOP lawmakers were reportedly weeping in the Capitol after McCarthy’s announcement.
Not long after, McCarthy was asked by National Review Online whether House Republicans are, at the moment, ungovernable. “I don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.”
The GOP’s problem is that there is no way to know whether this is rock bottom or not. Things could get worse.
“Didn’t Jim DeMint say it very clearly?” asks the GOP strategist, referring to the very conservative former senator. “DeMint said he would rather have 30 true conservatives in the Senate than 60 that don’t really have principles. Of course, with that, you won’t have any say in how the government works. Now, what (the House firebrands) are saying is, forget if we don’t have any say, forget if we can actually do anything, the key thing is to be able to say what we want.”
That’s the fight that caused the McCarthy melodrama. (Yes, his Benghazi comments were a disaster, but the basic conflict inside the House GOP conference was a much bigger factor.) Yes, it is reasonable to ask whether Republican leaders —the experienced ones steeped in the ways of Washington and, in particular, of K Street— did everything they could to understand the priorities of the conservative militants. But it’s probably too late for understanding now. The speakership is up for grabs, the conference is in disarray, and rock bottom might not even be in sight.
Before you check, no it is not April Fools’ Day. That actually was The Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent (quit laughing) writing something that made sense. That being said, I get it. As the chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, his comments are about as influential on American politics as a stoned squirrel running through a Canadian marijuana field. Hell, actually I may be more influential than Byron York, and that baked rodent beats me by a mile. That’s okay. I got a trump card saved that proves people are waking up to how crazy the GOP has become, even though they will quickly forget about it as soon as the Speakership is filled and any danger of government shutdown has passed.
Mr. Brooks shares several distinctions with his fellow New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman:
- Most overrated columnist
- Worst Columnist for the New York Times
- Most self-important columnist
- Winners of the prestigious Idiocy in Journalism Award, presented whenever by Foster Disbelief
In fact, if it wasn’t for Friedman’s Pulitzer prizes, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were the same person. (I kid, I kid. They each bring their own special kind of idiocy to the New York Times opinion pages.) But like the proverbial blind squirrel’s nut finding ability, David Brooks apparently fell asleep at the keyboard and face planted his way into a column that actually makes sense:
The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about?
This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.
Seriously, nodding along while reading a David Brooks column is the most surreal experience of my life, and I ate a lot of acid in my teens.
Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.
This produced a radical mind-set. Conservatives started talking about the Reagan “revolution,” the Gingrich “revolution.” Among people too ill educated to understand the different spheres, political practitioners adopted the mental habits of the entrepreneur. Everything had to be transformational and disruptive. Hierarchy and authority were equated with injustice. Self-expression became more valued than self-restraint and coalition building. A contempt for politics infested the Republican mind.
So the Speaker chaos somehow clued Brooks in on the last 20 years of Republican politics all of a sudden?
This anti-political political ethos produced elected leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence. Running a government is a craft, like carpentry. But the new Republican officials did not believe in government and so did not respect its traditions, its disciplines and its craftsmanship. They do not accept the hierarchical structures of authority inherent in political activity.
In his masterwork, “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber argues that the pre-eminent qualities for a politician are passion, a feeling of responsibility and a sense of proportion. A politician needs warm passion to impel action but a cool sense of responsibility and proportion to make careful decisions in a complex landscape.
If a politician lacks the quality of detachment — the ability to let the difficult facts of reality work their way into the mind — then, Weber argues, the politician ends up striving for the “boastful but entirely empty gesture.” His work “leads nowhere and is senseless.”
Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.
Are we living in a bad sci-fi flick? Did the body snatchers take the real David Brooks? Is a different NYT’s columnist filling in for Brooks this week? Did someone spike my drink with a ten strip?
Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!
People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.
These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.
Yes. Exactly. Mic drop. It took years for the GOP to go from the conservative party of Ronald Reagan to this radical fringe group that seems to flirt dangerously with fascism. It took a long time, step by step, to reach a Republican party that, no matter how much they deify President Reagan, would consider Reagan era Republicans to be liberals, if not communists. My question is, where the hell was David Brooks while those steps were taking place? I mean, other than denying they were taking place.
These three columns give me hope. I know it is a misguided, unfounded, and fleeting hope, but it is hope. Hope that the beltway press will realize what the fringe section of the GOP is doing to our democracy. That many of the most “conservative” members of Congress do not believe in government, let alone democracy. That when people say they want to shrink government down until it is small enough to drown in the bathtub, perhaps they aren’t just making a joke about limited government. Maybe they’re serious? Could it be that the reason the House Freedom Caucus is so willing to risk government shutdowns and government defaults is because the only things they believe government should do is arrest black people and stop women from having sex?
I want to laugh at the GOP. I want to snark, point at the idiots, and fall of my chair. I want to ask each and every mainstream Republican how that whole Tea Party thing is working out for them. But the laughter dies in my throat because this is harming the entire nation. This isn’t a minor political kerfluffle. How is Congress going to get anything done when the group showing the most political muscle thinks Paul Ryan isn’t conservative enough?
Yeah, I know it will be business as usual sooner than later (I’m sure David Brooks’ next column will be titled “The House Freedom Caucus is out of control, but the Democrats are just as bad somehow….), but maybe, just maybe people are starting to wake up and the moderate Republicans will save the GOP from its own creation.
Or nothing will change, and we’ll just have to continue waiting for the inevitable split of the Grand Old Party as the GOP fringe continues to refuse to govern.
At least I have hope.