Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 31, 2010

THIS ALMOST CERTAINLY ISN'T A HEAD-FAKE.... Jacob Weisberg posted a Slate item yesterday making the case that the congressional Republican leadership, after the elections, "will feint right while legislating closer to the center." Seriously.

Weisberg relies on history to point to a credible pattern -- Republican leaders are great at "the right fake," but don't follow through. Reagan, for example, raised taxes, expanded the size of government, largely ignored the legislative priorities of the religious right, and compromised all the time with his rivals, but conservatives loved him anyway.

As Weisberg sees it, we'll see this model again. Republican leaders will realize "they're being handed a gift, not a mandate." These same leaders, Weisberg argues, "don't think working with Democrats is evil. On the big picture tax and budget issues, they plan compromise with President Obama."

In all sincerity, I'd love to think Weisberg's right, but I have no idea where his confidence comes from. Nearly all evidence points in the exact opposite direction -- the Republicans' Senate leader insisted just last week that his top priority is destroying President Obama, and similarly, the Republicans' House leader boldly proclaimed, "This is not a time for compromise." The number of GOP candidates talking about shutting down the government next year is pretty large.

This does not sound like a party that "plans to compromise" with President Obama. Extremism, obstructionism, and antagonism will very likely push the GOP into the majority, and expecting Republican leaders to suddenly drop all of this once they're in a position of power is a fantasy. It is, to be sure, a pleasant fantasy, and one that would benefit the country, but the odds are overwhelmingly against it.

Why? Because as Dana Milbank explains today, the modern Republican Party "is sorely in need of grown-ups."

When Republicans gained control of Congress 16 years ago, the revolutionaries were eventually convinced by their leaders to cut deals with President Bill Clinton, leading to milestone achievements on the budget and welfare reform.

But there is no Bob Dole in the Republican leadership today; there isn't even a Newt Gingrich. There is nobody with the clout to tell Tea Party-inspired backbenchers when it's time to put down the grenades and negotiate. Rather, there are weak leaders who, frightened by the Tea Party radicals, have become unquestioning followers of a radical approach. [...]

Compromise was not always a dirty word for conservatives. Ronald Reagan -- so idolized by Pence that he has perfected a Reaganesque head-tilt while speaking -- compromised with the Democrats on Social Security and taxes. American Democracy couldn't function without compromise.

But now there is nobody to stand up to the take-no-prisoners caucus, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), who has floated the notion of impeaching Obama because she doesn't like his policies, and Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who threatens to leave the GOP if his colleagues don't pursue his biblical-law agenda.

In Weisberg's model, GOP leaders are strong, pragmatic, and responsible. In Milbank's model, those same leaders are weak, reckless, and easily cowed by radicals. Anyone watching D.C. in recent years shouldn't have any trouble concluding which model has more merit.

Just a few months ago, the American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein, not exactly a raging leftist, said John Boehner and his leadership team "are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious."

It's a party that's demonstrated no interest in substance, no interest in cooperation, and no interest in resisting the unhinged demands of Limbaugh, Palin, and Beck. Unless some well-hidden Republican adults suddenly emerge in the new year, Weisberg's predictions are literally impossible to believe.

Steve Benen 12:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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MY fantasy involves the Republicans regaining power, rebranding the Democrats 'throat-ramming socialism' as 'fiscal conservatism' and taking credit for their success, and finally achieving sweet, sweet bipartisanship.
But they won't do that. They're not imaginative enough, and their bases are electing them to cause problems, not fix them.

Posted by: Mike on October 31, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

weisberg has always been an idiot; this is just soothing palaver so he and his ilk can pretend that life will go on much as before. twit.

Posted by: daveminnj on October 31, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

weisberg's confidence comes from the fact that he's the kind of jerk who thinks contrarianism is just ever so clever and certainly much more fun to write about than to consider that the republican party is dominated by right-wing thugs who mean what they say.

Posted by: howard on October 31, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The newly elected teapers will be put in the junior closet and not allowed out until the play the pseudo aristoi game. IMO.

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 31, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Who knows. Maybe he thinks that by not capturing the Senate the House Republicans can be forced into moderation.

Posted by: CarlP on October 31, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Pundits' conundrum: All that paper, all that ink! And the deadline looms. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 31, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Weisberg is being deliberately obtuse. "Feinting right" and governing from the center died with the Bush years.

Posted by: Rachel on October 31, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I think the wack-job tea baggers who get elected will simply vote however the Republican leadership wants them too. The Sharon Angles who end up in the House and Senate will spend their time lining their own pockets and chasing what ever buck is waved their way.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 31, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Weisberg must have been asleep for the past 20 years. The tea party Republicans would give us exactly what they promise if they regain Congressional majorities - obstructionism, petty investigations, shutting down government if they don't get their way, and efforts to enrich their wealthy elite friends.

It is up to us to stop this agenda on November 2. Help get out the vote!


Posted by: Winning Progressive on October 31, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

We need to make a distinction between what Republican "leaders" would like to do and what it is possible for them to do given the radical right forces controlling their party. The GOP has been leaderless for some time because it is controlled by a Tea Party movement that brags about its lack of organization and purity to principle, which removes all freedom of maneuver. This is not a new dynamic, but one that students of political and revolutionary movements have remarked on for some time. The Tea Party Republicans are engaged in a holy crusade against tyranny. They want regime change not a national governing agenda, so anything short of full stop confrontation is likely to get a Republican leader guillotined.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 31, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

1. Narrative from Wednesday until next February or so. "End of the Obama Presidency."
2. Narrative from February on. "Republicans split on X"

Posted by: JMG on October 31, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

That column was not as terrible as the Weisberg byline (usually, he's a fount of glib contrarianism). The lede was that Republican congressional leaders would become more moderate, but the body phrases it more as a dilemma than a prediction.

The last vaguely moderate Republican leader was Trent Lott, who was loathed by the TEA party types, not for being a racist (obviously they like that) but for not going to the wall for Clinton's impeachment when it was obvious that the votes weren't there. As a result, the party threw him under the bus the first chance they got (admittedly Lott gave them a doocy of an opportunity).

Posted by: kth on October 31, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"The Tea Party Republicans are engaged in a holy crusade against tyranny."

Then why do they seem so tyrannical?

Posted by: SaintZak on October 31, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the Repub establishment will be able to bring the new TPers to heel. I fully expect the TPers to sabotage the federal debt limit extension and thus bring government to a halt. This will backfire on them when government provided services falter and people notice the effect of their actions, but we will still have to suffer with them for two more years.

The TPers in Congress may end up helping Obama in 2012.

Posted by: sceptic on October 31, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Slate crew is another of the compromised, Broderist e-Villager clown cars offering steaming piles of simpering sentiments about how both parties are respectably working towards rational, pragmatic goals at either center-left or center-right nexus. If you want real insight, you need Salon (well, if they're still any good either.)

Posted by: neil b on October 31, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Milbank is right: The current Republican leadership will not be leading; they are terrified of losing their leadership positions and, therefore, have been following and will continue to follow the more extreme elements of the party. Boehner (and perhaps MConnell) are in danger of not being re-elected to their leadership posts, and will have to agree to accommodate the Tea party faction in order to retain their positions. As a result of this, they will not push compromise unless somehow they can get the Tea Party faction to go along, and that will be extremely difficult.

The first big challenge for the Republican "no compromise" position will be the tax legislation. Obama holds the cards here--either his bill will be passed or no bill will be passed, in which case the Bush tax cuts will expire. The Republicans will be faced with a dilemma--either they compromise and agree to a bill which continues the tax cuts for incomes up to $250,000 (or possibly $300,000 if a compromise can be effected) or they refuse to compromise and thereby cause the rollback of tax cuts for all income levels. This will immediately prove the unsustainability of the "no compromise" strategy. Let's hope that Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership can hold the Democrats together to push this position and not allow a temporary extension of the tax cuts.

Posted by: DRF on October 31, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

In the CURRENT House, there is a majority for extending tax cuts for the wealthy. That's with the biggest Democratic majority in almost 40 years. So that's a done deal. When it comes to taxes, there's only position in our government. What do rich people want?
My guess is the big Republican problem will be extending the debt limit. That's just a no-brainer, especially if we're passing tax cuts, but I'll bet it'll force Boehner and McConnell to take minorities of their caucuses and vote with Democrats.

Posted by: JMG on October 31, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Weisberg's an idiot and I'm surprised he still has a job. Like the rest of the Slateboys, he was a TNR second rater brought along by the world's most overrated liberal writer Michael Kinsley, who originated the role of liberal punching bag on chat shows. Weisberg fails to see how history collides with reality and that base rates for past behavior always have to be evaluated in the face of current contingencies. In other words, this will be like the mid-90s, only worse.

Posted by: Rich on October 31, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Dana Milbank is under the mistaken impression that GOPers, at the federal level, want to do something like govern. After the past 15 years this is a foolish mistake on his part.

Posted by: anthrosciguy on October 31, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan raised taxes because deficit spending alone wasn't enough to feed his two main addictions--corporate welfare and massive defense outlays (MX missiles weren't cheap in those days). It wasn't because he suddenly got in touch with his inner moderate.

Weisberg is continuing the fallacy that conservatives don't like to spend other people's money.

Posted by: Dwight on October 31, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Ronald Reagan -- so idolized by Pence that he has perfected a Reaganesque head-tilt while speaking -- compromised with the Democrats on Social Security and taxes."

i always thought that reagan did that - and pence does that - because their few brain cells needed to be tilted so the synapses would connect.

Posted by: mellowjohn on October 31, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Forget the Reagan precedent. George W. Bush campaigned as a moderate Republican in 2000 -- I was one of those who saw little difference between him and Al Gore -- yet he immediately shifted rightward once he was handed the election. Around the time he picked Crisco Johnny as Attorney General. And that was *without* a legitimate voter mandate.

Posted by: Grumpy on October 31, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

It's probably not a head fake, but when these firebrands get there and start realizing they're going to have to deal with other legislators, they're going to have to learn to compromise fairly quickly. Shutting the government down wasn't all that popular in 1994, and it's going to be even less so in wartime.

Posted by: J.D. Rhoades on October 31, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, what the Republican leadership SAYS before an election has nothing to do with its intentions. But this time they are going to have to deal with the members of the Tea Party that cannot be co-opted by Washington -- including many of their most fervent voters. It is time for the Democrats to drive a deep wedge into the Republican Party by insisting that any tax cuts are matched with equal spending cuts in the same Congressional bill. Because the rest of the country won't go for it. Destroy the GOP!

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on October 31, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

The main problem with political commentary is the talk about the possibility of losing control of the Senate.

This already happened. We don't need 50 votes to control the senate, or even 60...we need 100 reasonable senators. Because even one Jim DeMint can gum up the works. We are now sure of having a few more of these guys.

Of course liberals are caught up on the filibuster. But a few bad senators could force votes on nearly everything since unanimous consent is required. If a few tea party senators force votes on everything, almost nothing will get done as every vote takes lots of time.

Posted by: tomj on October 31, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I see it as anthrosciguy above does. These Republicans have no interest in governing. Has one of them said anything about what he or she would do in office in an affirmative way (i.e., not repealing something, starting something new)? Maybe "tax cuts." Other than that, they have no desire to do anything, solve any problems, or function in any way other than stopping Democrats from what _they_ want to do. You don't need to compromise or moderate to do that.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 31, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

To those who say, well, they say they'll do x,y and z (radical things), but I don't believe they really will, I say "So you think they're lying? And you're going to vote for a liar?"

Posted by: Hmmmmm on October 31, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ted Frier, who posted above, has a great column here:

Must read!!! (along with Steve's column, of course)

Posted by: Hannah on October 31, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

You discount the abilities of President Barack Obama. He is already prepared for these guys and he will get bipartisanship - believe it or not. As a matter of fact, bipartisanship will be easier to achieve because no Democrat will be around to act as Nelson did.

Posted by: Paul Siegel on October 31, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

From the article:
"Just a few months ago, the American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein, not exactly a raging leftist, said John Boehner and his leadership team "are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious."

Well said. Add to useless clowns: unpatriotic and harmful to the nation.

Posted by: Bob on October 31, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

THAT is moat certainly wrong. Since GHW Bush was defeated, Republicans have move ever further to the right. The reason Bush 43 was elected was because the old-time Republicans figured on the speak right wing/govern center being the operational values of the Bush 43 admin, he was after all his father's son and presumably not a traitor to his class.

We were wrong. He spoke center and governed from the far right. He proved to be a traitor to his background but not to his wealthy friends.

Also, Reagan hardly governed from the center... His refusal to even speak about AIDS, James Watt, tax cuts for the wealthy, iran-contra, etc ought to be evidence enough.

From LBJ to Bush 43, everyone who had thought they have had a mandate has proved to be inept at governing without destroying themselves and harming the country.

Will that happen this time? You betcha.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 31, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Milbank's article was very brave and enlightening that there are some GOP who are not haters. For Minority Leader Bohner to pall around with Nazi sympathiser without more being made of it in the media suggests to me that media has certainly sunk too a New low, Bohner was already there!

Less we Forget Who Got Us Here:
Excerpt from PlanetWaves.Net

(Conservative public officials spend) "$1 million a year per soldier in (Iraq and now) in Afghanistan which makes the bonuses of Wall Street executives look like a bargain.

(The GOP Party want to privatize or reuduce) "Social Security benefits in half -- as if they're not low enough already. Yet, companies such as Bank of America and General Electric pay zero corporate taxes and get plenty in corporate welfare.

Candidates pandering to this GOP/Tea Party constituency are promising to eliminate the minimum wage, take away health care, give the Social Security fund to Wall Street. Women voters are leaning Republican this year. They are being manipulated by hundreds of millions of dollars worth of anonymous attack advertising, allowed by a new Supreme Court decision called Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. I don't understand this. Lots of conservatives are Christians, and Jesus said we should take care of the poor. And as for those ads, why would you conceal your identity unless you have something to hide?

On a radio show, Sal Russo, the 'chief strategist' of the Tea Party Express, a political action committee that funnels money into the campaigns of Tea Party candidates. Mr. Russo got his start shining the shoes of Ronald Reagan, who looks like a bleeding heart liberal these days -- he raised taxes dozens of times, granted amnesty to illegal immigrants and did quite a bit of deficit spending. Russo rambled on for an hour about how the (Democrat-controlled) government is over-regulating business and therefore creating the recession. All we need to do is get rid of these pesky regulations and the recession will disappear, he said (about 14 times). There used to be an expression for this -- putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

Speaking of education, it's money well spent. We need to invest in the future, and an effective, economical way to do that is to support education. Parents should have a diversity of options for educational philosophies available: different kinds of schools to suit different values and ideas about life. Public higher education needs to go back to majority funding by the state, remembering its primary mission, which is access to all citizens; this in turn will create a prosperous, functioning economy. We have to stop this whole business of student loans and go back to grants.

Help for those in need. The purpose of a society is to take care of all its members. Why bother otherwise? We are a nation based on abundance, and there is plenty to go around, especially if we're talking about food, shelter, clothing and health care. Many of my fellow conservatives these days say they read the Bible. Remember this part? "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me."

Posted by: angellight on October 31, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, this is off topic, but as I was reading this entry, one of those nasty pop-ups got in my face with a picture of Barney Frank and the words "Do you think homosexuals should have special rights?" written in pink, in an exaggeratedly ornate script. I've seen that damn thing once too often; I clicked on it, answered every question on the survey exactly the opposite of the way they obviously intended, signed it first name: Screw, second name: You, e-mail address ihatebigots@biteme.com, and gave a zip code of 00000. Their computer processed it and said that my petition had been successfully received. Good! Hope someone enjoys f***ing reading it!

Posted by: T-Rex on October 31, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

RIP Ted Sorensen.

He authored one of my favorite books:


Posted by: Joe Friday on October 31, 2010 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same "head fake" we've heard since the 90's. "Republicans really don't mean any of this stuff..." That's horse-hockey. Unfortunately guys like Weisberg meet with their "sources" (who know they can feed him and many others like him a line) about a newfound willingness to deal. Then when Dems take a hard line, the GOP has a line of stooges ready to write about how it's the DEMS who won't play ball.

How many times do you have to read the same book before you realize the ending doesn't change?

Posted by: Sebastian James on October 31, 2010 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Wiseberg and Davey Brooks, both, drink form the same Unicorn Piss Fountain of Eternal Self-Delusion, which Fountain is full of pleasant, pastel-coloured fantasies. That is the only way the two can deal with the ugly reality of the unlettered and mentally unmoored hordes taking over the party of their (faulty) memory.

Posted by: exlibra on October 31, 2010 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

unfortunately the strong mature Republican party is as real as Tinkerbell

Posted by: Jamie on October 31, 2010 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK


The normal pattern for social revolutions when they achieve taking over the government is to quickly be reduced to tyrants themselves.

They use the threat of tyranny to get their followers to work together to defeat the government in the name of defeating tyranny. Much of that effort to destroy the existing government includes destroying the social mechanisms that allow government to work effectively. (The more actually tyrannical the government is, the easier it is to paint them as tyrannical. All government is based on the threat of force after all.)

Also, operating a revolution requires very tyrannical procedures to make the revolutionaries work together. Mao, for example, would quickly and publicly kill those of his own army who stole from the peasants. It created effective discipline and made a clear contrast for the peasants between the Communists and the Chiang Kai Shek's Kuomintang troops who were often bandits themselves.

Then when the revolutionaries get into control of the government they find that all of normal social mechanisms that make government effective have been destroyed. All they have left is the power to implement a tyranny of their own.

Posted by: Rick B on October 31, 2010 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Well, two years ago the narrative was that the GOP "brand" was badly tarnished by Bush, so that's why the Democrats would win.

Because they always have to be fair and balanced, this year they are saying that the Dem brand is tarnished by Obama.

The rules of the game (journalistic ethics etc.) forbid them from favoring one side or the other, so they have to come up with narratives that make both sides seem equally bad or equally good, whatever the case may be. Even when one side confesses its own guilt or admits its evil intentions that false equivalence narrative must be supported, even if it requires twisted logic, even if it requires an outright defiance of the truth. So, the villagers have tried to separate the craziest of the tea partiers from the GOP, have tried to pretend that the GOP doesn't really mean all the bad stuff it does and says, has tried to pretend that tea partiers are all just good American folks who are angry at the right things for legitimate reasons, that it is something other than the GOP base.

David Frum, a "thoughtful" more intellectually inclined Republican, even admitted his own insanity by stating that in spite of the craziness of the tea party and all the bad behavior of the GOP, Obama and the Democrats had overreached and were bad, bad, bad, so he was going to vote a straight Republican ticket. That was the only way to make the bad bad Democrats govern responsibly. Electing more crazy Republicans. And for that brilliant analysis, he was awarded a spot on the "liberal" NPR to broadcast his views.

Posted by: ajaye on October 31, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Weisberg is right. Just watch. The GOP has been in midterm mode, which comes to an end the day after the election. The next phase: presidential mode.

Already GOP talking heads are downplaying Sarah Palin's chances at the presidency, and already conservative pundits are speaking about the nation's need for a "new kind of politics" without the polarization that has plagued us for so many years--even though they're the ones who always drum it up as a deliberate strategy.

As soon as the election is over on Tuesday, watch that Tea Party money dry up. Watch Glenn Beck slowly lose his position of prominence in the conservative movement. Watch Jim DeMint come increasingly under fire within his own party. Watch the GOP gear up for a presidential contest in which they try to offer a mainstream, hometown, corporate-friendly candidate who can restore "sanity." What perfect timing, now that the Democrats are demoralized and impotent after having watered down their own policies to the point of political indefensibility for two years.

The fact that Steve Benen does not see this is unsurprising, quite frankly. Steve is an example of a Washington insider-liberal who has unwittingly played the GOP's game perfectly. Recall how ardently Steve urged liberals to stop sniping at the Dems and praise them for their efforts as they passed an insufficient and poorly targeted stimulus bill, and a bizarre and unprincipled health care bill that preserves the current system more then it reforms it.

Sure, the stimulus bailed out state budgets and reduced taxes (if almost imperceptibly), but it failed to fund infrastructure improvements in any serious way. What happened to the national infrastructure bank? What happened to the desperate need to start rebuilding our highways, transit, water systems and electric grid? Paul Krugman is more eloquent and cogent on this than anyone, and he's in a dark mood indeed.

And the health bill managed to be simultaneously politically indefensible and fiscally irresponsible (despite the hype). Filled with gifts to insurance companies, it punted on anything resembling cost controls, failed to provide universal coverage, and did nothing to simplify the insurance system for average Americans. It has more in common with the 2005 Bush Medicare prescription drug bill than most liberals care to admit.

These days, rooting for the home team is a pointless exercise unless you just want to get everyone agitated about those crazy GOP nutjobs. But the truth is far more disturbing than Glenn Beck could ever be: By failing to stand and fight for the poor, for the indebted, and the average working man and woman, the Democratic Party has lost its meaning in the popular mind. And that is precisely the GOP's strategy.

Remember how Obama and Rahm Emanuel arbitrarily limited the size of the stimulus bill so as to attract GOP votes, at a time when they did not need them? Remember how they watered down the health care bill to suit Reublicans like Olympia Snowe--who of course refused to vote for them anyway?

Obama has ended up squandering the best chance since the 1930s for positive change in Washington. In 2009-2010, we have had the largest bloc of liberals in the Senate since the 1930s. Yet they refused to stand up to corporate interests--especially banks and insurance companies. Don't be deluded into thinking we needed 60 votes for everything because of the filibuster, either. Remember how they finally managed to get health care passed by using "reconciliation?" Obama could have used that tool the whole time to get twice as much done.

In the current Congress, there are actually fewer conservatives than in any Congress since the days of FDR. A huge chunk of the Democratic Party used to always be dominated by the solid south--and back in the days when there were still liberal Republicans, there were never more than a handful of them in the Senate. No, we have just experienced a larger liberal bloc than has ever existed since the Great Depression days--larger than LBJ had when he passed Medicare and the civil rights bills. Even the filibuster itself is less of an obstacle than it used to be. Back in the 1960s, cloture took 70 votes or more. We actually have it easier than LBJ did!

The sad truth is that history will look back on 2009-2010 as a strange and unique failure of presidential and congressional leadership. Obama governed as if the Republicans had a congressional majority. He had so many Clinton people in his administration, I sometimes wonder if they forgot this wasn't the era of Newt Gingrich. Unable to perceive their own opportunity, unable to strategize in a different way for a different time, they squandered the middle class's best hopes every step of the way.

So now the GOP has us where they want us. Having intimidated Washington insider-liberals into surrendering the heart of their reforms, they can now get traction against Democrats by labelling them as little more than a partisan mafia. Since both parties are generally perceived as worthless, the moment is now ripe for a centrist, above-the-fray traditional conservative type to come in and restore peace and civility. (And smaller government and low taxes, etc.)

And heck, those Tea Party people aren't mainstream conservatives. Everybody always knew that anyway, right? They're not the GOP. By golly, those Tea Partiers are just as crazy as liberals.

Just watch.

Posted by: gjosh on November 1, 2010 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

gjosh, the republican party has a congressional minority: the fact that the blue dogs are still in the democratic party is a function of the fact that they are scared of the thugs, but ideologically, they are republicans.

and if you want to excoriate obama, excoriate him for enabling that ideological predisposition by refusing to fight the filibuster, which is what makes that ideological unity politcal strength.

Posted by: howard on November 1, 2010 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

I am sure that no one will read this, but I will say it anyway. Tonight 60 minutes had a segment about a town in Iowa hit hard by the great recession. The take away from the interviews is Republicans and Democrats are both useless. They are both pushing issues that are irrelevant to the real need--jobs. Neither party is doing a darn thing to solve the real issue--Jobs.

The folks in Washington, left, right and lobbiests, either believe the Fox News hype that people give a shit about them and their "agendas" or they know the truth that neither party is advancing anything the people suffering permanent unemployment during the flat recovery really need.

An argument can be made that the Washington insiders are totally out of touch. A stronger argument is they understand the problem and either don't think solutions are possible or fear advancing solutions that might work will result in their principles losing money.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 1, 2010 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

"Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who threatens to leave the GOP if his colleagues don't pursue his biblical-law agenda."

Frank Rich seems to think that is going to happen, and let us hope he is right.

Posted by: bob h on November 1, 2010 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

My sense is the Republicans hope for a repeat of the 90s when Clinton wheeled in Dick Morris and gave away the store to their corporate buddies in order to survive the next news cycle. I don't look for another shutdown or impeachment fiasco (only the Teay Party gang is that stupid), but I don't expect any cooperation from Republicans to do anything worthwhile for the country. In the meantime, my hope is excellent websites like this one can ferret out the sources of corporate donations to right wing candidates so that boycotts can be organized, and of course there are parts of the country I will not spend any tourist dollars in as long as crazy people remain in charge, e.g., Arizona and possibly Nevada. I travel frequently and this will be no insignificant amount of money if many other people feel the same way. Do those things and also move your bank accounts and investments into community banks (Arianna Huffington is right). Right wing conservatives have declared economic war on us. Lets give them one.

Posted by: Bob on November 1, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

With the help of media enablers like Weisberg, the center will just be redefined as a compromise between those who want to see Obama in irons and those who merely want to impeach him.

I fully await David Broder's 2011 column asking for the series of resignations that would allow speaker Boehner to become President - all in the spirit of bipartisanship.

If the Republicans "shut down" government again, it is foolish to think that they will take the blame this time, the media landscape is so radically different now that it will done in concert with a campaign to blame Obama for being stubborn and unreasonable.

The disconnect from reality that has consumed the conservatives has infected the middle of the road voter as well. The Republican party consistently polls even worse than Democrats in terms of approval, and the mushy middle insists they value bipartisan compromise above ideology, and yet they will be instrumental in returning an unpopular party to power in the House that brags of their unwillingness to work with Obama.

I can hardly blame rational Republicans for the cynical bargain they have made with the Teahadists - as sacrificing the greater good for personal gain is a cornerstone of modern conservatism, but the "centrist" voter who thinks that electing more Republicans will somehow force Washington to work together, is a bigger dupe than any Fox watching teabagger (who at least knows they are voting for no compromise).

Posted by: Rip on November 1, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

What everyone seems to be missing here is that, in the words of Kodos (Simpsons, Treehouse of Horrors #5), "it doesn't matter which one of us you vote for! Either way, your planet is dooooomed!"

BOTH parties serve the save owner. BOTH parties are simply interchangeable actors on the stage of an increasingly powerful corporate world government. Erosion of the Constitution and its guarantees has happened under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. It'll continue to happen under whatever administration is in charge because the agenda that's being pursued is NOT an American agenda, but a corporate agenda. Need proof? Consider the current Liar-in-Chief, Obama. On the trail he promised to:

1) increase transparency
2) kick out the lobbyists
3) end the war in Iraq
4) repeal DADT
5) close GITMO
6) roll back the Bush era policies of domestic spying
7) repeal vast tracts of the USA PATRIOT act

So far, the score is zero for seven. In fact, Obama has been a faithful steward of the Bush era errors and has done NOTHING to bring any sort of change to the country. He's just the new manager for the franchise, and NOBODY's asking to see the OWNER.

I still believe in the role of government to help coordinate the efforts of the people, but am equally convinced that the federal government's role really has been narrowed down to coordinating the corporate takeover of America. Our last best hope is to focus on local governing and to resist the federal government at all costs. And this is not some right-wing TP dude talking, this is a very left leaning, freedom loving individual talking. We're spending so much time arguing about the differences between Coke and Pepsi that we've failed to see they're just two sides of the same poisonous coin.

Be peace,

Posted by: Zen'ichi-Maro on November 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Weisberg seems to think the old-school Republicans have some real interest in governing and policy as a motive. This assumes facts not in evidence.

Posted by: biggerbox on November 1, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Dems need to come out strong and take a stand, starting with the tax legislation. Double-dog dare the GOP to live up to their rhetoric on Day 1. Throw them into the pressure cooker, turn up the heat and let them cook in their own juices.

GOP leadership would then have two choices: (1) actually follow through with the extremist threats and get skewered by the moderates and independents; or (2) back off and be exposed to their extremist base as the gutless cowards they are.

If Dems don't force them into this situation and instead try to compromise, then they will be ones exposed as cowards.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 1, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I would feel sort of sorry for the GOP party heads but they did nothing but let this happen and even invited the crazies to the table, so they have no one to blame but themselves for what could happen. They have zero control over the backbenchers because the backbenchers are the ones driving the bus while the party hacks like Boehner are just along for the ride.

Posted by: ET on November 1, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK



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