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July 02, 2011 10:00 AM The discontent of the GOP elder statesmen

By Steve Benen

I wrote a couple of items this week about the dearth of grown-ups in the Republican Party, but in fairness, I should note that GOP adults exist. They’re just not in Congress.

For example, former Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, is so frustrated with his party’s tactics on the debt ceiling, he’s created a “truth squad” with members of the H.W. Bush administration in the hopes of explaining reality to congressional Republicans.

“The debt’s coming due, and they say it isn’t coming due,” Domenici said in a recent interview. “They’re wrong.”

He expressed frustration that his party may be willing to let the debt limit be ruptured. “Who do we get?” he asked. “Bring God down, Christ” to make the case against doing so? […]

The current standoff, he added, “is absolutely beyond my comprehension.”

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, reflected this week on his party’s refusal to even consider additional revenue as part of a debt-reduction deal.

“We’re at 15 percent revenue, and historically it’s been closer to 20 percent,” says Simpson. “We’ve never had a war without a tax, and now we’ve got two,” he says. “Absolute bullshit.”

Of course, it’s not just the debt talks. I often think about a quote from former Sen. John Danforth, a Missouri Republican, who served with Simpson and Domenici in the Senate. Last year, he expressed some concern about the direction of his party.

“If Dick Lugar,” Danforth said, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

Lugar, the Indiana Republican, is facing a serious primary challenger, and may very well lose.

At what point can the GOP’s old guard agree that the party really has gone so far overboard that it’s beyond redemption?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • jpeckjr on July 02, 2011 10:05 AM:

    I know how they could make their point: They could leave the R party and become Democrats. Hold a joint press conference. The Lincoln Memorial would be a good venue, but I bet the White House would host it too!

  • c u n d gulag on July 02, 2011 10:09 AM:

    Today's GOP is like a really stupid dog that's been running in circles, always to the right, constantly chasing its own tail.

    And now, the problem isn't that the dog caught the tail.

    No, the problem now is that the tail is now chasing the dog.

  • Alrighty Then on July 02, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Today's GOP is like a really stupid dog that's been running in circles, always to the right, constantly chasing its own tail.-c u n d gulag

    Comparing Republicans to dogs, even stupid dogs, is beyond the pale. You need to apologize to dogs immediately.

  • matt w on July 02, 2011 10:22 AM:

    It's a very sad statement on the state of the GOP that you can even think of calling Simpson an adult. His behavior on the debt commission was truly ridiculous.

  • berttheclock on July 02, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Ummm, Simpson would have a bit more Gravitas if he would drop his constant drum beating for cutting Social Security and Medicare payments.

    Simpson is very well off dropping by his family run law practice in Wyoming which works for well-heeled oil and cattle interests. He knows little about the Hoi Polloi of this nation.

  • c u n d gulag on July 02, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Alrighty Then,
    You're right - since I'll be suspended by "Political Animal" for what I just said about dogs, here you go:

    "I completely agree with everything in the coming "Political Animal" statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate.

    Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to dogs, to my "Political Animal" colleagues, and to the readers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it." *

    *Thanks to Mark Halperin, I know how to do a real apology, not one of those, 'Sorry if I offended any dog lovers out there, but...'

  • max on July 02, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Most of these ex-politican GOP commenters couldn't even get into the modern GOP. The crackpot wing of the modern GOP, the tea party, is fond of quoting Jefferson relative to spilling a little blood to refresh the tree of liberty. They are so dumb I think the irony of Jefferson's statement will be lost on them when the voters come after them in 2012. Obama is now polling ahead of Rick Perry, in Texas.

  • Patrick Star on July 02, 2011 10:30 AM:

    Blame Rush Limbaugh, blame Fox News, blame talk radio, blame a lazy, overprivileged mass media, and blame nonexistent campaign finance laws, among others. These congressional Republicans are a reflection of their constituents - the only way they can stay in office is if they're just as loony as their base. The paradox is, the mass brainwashing of the voters that swept them into power is driving them off the cliff of sanity into raving lunacy.

  • dr. bloor on July 02, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Unless and until Reverend Danforth prefaces everything he says by apologizing for getting this monster started by pushing Clarence Thomas on us, I really wish he'd just take a seat in the corner and STFU.

  • berttheclock on July 02, 2011 10:33 AM:

    Yes, it is highly insulting to our beloved canine friends to be compared with any RepuG.

    However, the one exception is that very large breed known as Koch's Poodles.

  • berttheclock on July 02, 2011 10:37 AM:

    With apologies to my beloved, Katya, a magnificent miniature poodle, who, passed away some years ago.

  • buckyblue on July 02, 2011 10:52 AM:

    WAY OT but wasn't Halperin kind of a pussy the way he called Obama a dick? I mean, a real guy would have just said, "Obama, God, what a dick". Halperin was hemming and hawing, checking to make sure the delay button worked. Went to change his tampon, then said, "He's kinda being a little bit of a dick." God, what a pussy.

  • Goldilocks on July 02, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Comparing Halperin to pussies, even menstruating pussies, is beyond the pale. You need to apologize to pussies immediately.

  • gus on July 02, 2011 11:20 AM:

    Well, when it comes down to blaming something, blame the fact that we have to choose either/or.

    Either you a man or you are a mouse. Either you are Democrat or a Republican. People choose to identify themselves with a party, and not just the two parties but the various parties which are essentially divided by two choices: either you are with Them or are you with Us?

    As for the GOP's current batch of ex-elected Graybeards:
    Obviously, they have lost the control of the party even if some of the major financial backers are of their generation. They don't get the podiums and microphone's like they used to. It is as if there needs to be something of Great Historical Importance that brings the First Drafters to give them a platform to speak. Otherwise, they say stuff, it is barely covered and quickly forgotten. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Sarah Palin Tweets and those nattering nababs can't stop talking about it.

    So, if an when the current GOP Congress and/or presidential candidates screw up royally, we'll get to hear from the GOP's graybeards as they take so-and-so to the woodshed, like Scowcroft did with Dubya Bush during some of the worst of Iraq. But, until then...

  • buckyblue on July 02, 2011 12:06 PM:

    My apologies to pussies everywhere, even menstruating ones.

  • Trollop on July 02, 2011 1:58 PM:

    Blame a lazy, overprivileged society who think that they don't have to pay in either blood or treasure to wage bloodshed half a world away. The R-tards have made it thus, interpreting the will of the "American" people. The vast majority of the public is so self-centered that they've gobbled up a king size platter of this Roman holiday horse-shit without a second thought. Elder republican despair is not without its irony!

  • Mike on July 02, 2011 2:07 PM:

    The sage elders of the GOP spawned this monster, so I have zero sympathy for them.

    But liberals are totally unable to affect the national discourse, so I guess the only people who can stop the Republicans are other Republicans.

  • Rich on July 02, 2011 3:39 PM:

    Danforth inflicted Clarence Thomas on us. He's no "adult". He's just an heir to dogfood fortune.

  • Rick B on July 02, 2011 5:40 PM:

    "I should note that GOP adults exist. They’re just not in Congress."

    What you are saying, Steve, is that the process for electing Congressmen has ceased to be representative and instead elects only the most extreme of the Republicans.

    I think that is true, and I also think it is primarily true for Republicans, probably because all the money flows to electing the extremists. The Democrats are less corrupted by the current process. So far, anyway.

  • Tom Marney on July 02, 2011 9:43 PM:

    "What you are saying, Steve, is that the process for electing Congressmen has ceased to be representative and instead elects only the most extreme of the Republicans."

    Surely any political party that's worth the name has learned that a majority of the party isn't necessarily a majority of the electorate. Even if the party has a majority of the electorate, which this one doesn't.

    What's different this time is that the damage they intend to do cannot be undone.

  • Nancy Irving on July 03, 2011 6:44 AM:

    Domenici is mistaken if he thinks Jesus' coming down from the sky would make the GOP see sense.

    No, I think it's more likely they'd break out the hammer and nails...

  • Doug on July 03, 2011 9:24 AM:

    I'd say that the radicalism of the 1960s, the radicalism that Republicans like to hang around Democratic necks, wasn't just confined to those on the left of the political spectrum.
    But then, what do I know? I'm just a DFH...

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