Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bitter In-Fighting Has Turned The GOP Into A Stalinist Nightmare-- And The Response From Mainstream Republicans Has Been Like Refusing To Get Chemotherapy Because You Want Your Body To Unite With Your Cancerous Tumor


There are few substantive issues that I would find much agreement on with mainstream conservatives like Charlie Dent (R-PA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Bob Dold (R-IL), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) or Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). My heart goes out to them, though. But none of these congressmen are crackpots, nihilists, infants, sociopaths or anarchists who want to make the country ungovernable if they can't get their way. David Brat (R-VA) is. If you missed Brat arguing with Charlie Dent on Meet the Press Sunday, watch the video up top. Hugh Hewett, the first talking head questioning the two Republicans, is very much a right-wing GOP kook. And even he's sick of the backbiting Republican extremists that are grinding the whole country to a halt and making it impossible for a government to function in an orderly and efficient way.

It goes beyond the grotesque corruption inadvertently exposed by the Speaker-who-never-was when he admitted Trey Gowdy's phony-baloney Benghazi Committee was never anything but a sick, partisan witch hunt at the taxpayers expense. But there is something we can learn about the GOP's willingness to feed their extremists red meat from that sordid episode. There needs it be an investigation of the investigation. Why haven't Trey Gowdy and Darrell Issa resigned from Congress yet?
The House Select Committee on Benghazi is reeling again after a fired GOP investigator accused the Republican majority of conducting a politically motivated probe of Hillary Clinton-- accusations the right says are an attempt to get the committee to pay him a settlement.

Major Bradley Podliska, who left the panel in June after about 10 months on the job, told CNN on Sunday he was fired because he refused to conduct a partisan probe of the former secretary of state. He said the panel has veered off its original course to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans dead-- instead zeroing in on Clinton following news that she used private email while secretary of state.

...Podliska is a Republican and believes the Benghazi investigation holds merit, making his criticism of the panel all the more stinging for the committee. A lawyer for Podliska said he was not partisan and never authorized anyone to go after Clinton.

"I'm scared. I'm nervous. I know that this is, you know, I'm going up against powerful people in Washington. But at the end of the day I need to live with myself," he told CNN. "I told my wife, I will view myself as a coward if I don't do the right thing here."

...Podliska, an Air Force Reserve intelligence officer, plans to file a lawsuit against the panel next month for wrongful termination. Podliska said the termination was twofold: because of his unwillingness to focus his probe solely on Clinton and State but also for taking a leave of absence to fulfill military service obligations.

"I was fired for going on military service, and I was fired for trying to conduct an objective, nonpartisan, thorough investigation," Podliska said.
Meanwhile Bill Scher, a conservative Democrat, begged the conservative Republicans he sometimes makes common cause with to not give in to far-right bullies, telling them that "[p]utting party first has proved to be their fatal error. Instead of standing up to the far-right bullies who perennially take the government hostage for the conservative outrage du jour, Boehner and McCarthy have effectively let them dictate how the House is run." He wrote at Real Clear Politics that Boehner and the mainstream conservatives in the GOP should "have it out for good with what had been known as the Tea Party. He could have drawn a red line by refusing to allow a shutdown in 2013, or forcing a vote on bipartisan immigration reform."
Boehner chose a different path, allowing the inmates to run wild in the asylum while trying to contain the havoc they wreaked. He let them learn the hard way that a government shutdown would hurt Republican poll numbers. He shelved the immigration reform package he said he wanted, shifting the blame to President Obama. He prevented an automatic yet politically suicidal cut in Medicare doctor reimbursements-- opposed by right-wing fiscal scolds-- by sneaking it through the House on a hastily called voice vote.

One can understand why Boehner would go to great lengths to avoid a Republican civil war, especially before the 2014 midterms. Control of the Senate was in sight, as well as a broader House majority. Theoretically, that would free the Republican leadership from the nihilists, and allow them to pass problem-solving legislation that could frame the debate for 2016 on their terms.

But theory was not reality. Only days after the 2015 congressional swearing-in, the House Freedom Caucus formed and painted a target on the speaker’s back. Nonstop fractiousness made the most basic legislative tasks a protracted grind, sidelining any hope of rebranding the party with a shiny new legislative agenda. With greater power did not come greater responsibility.

Something had to give. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “no more government shutdowns” ultimatum suggested that the Republican leadership finally had enough. Boehner no longer had the option of letting the hard right learn the hard way all over again. A showdown was unavoidable. Then Boehner slunk from the fight.

It’s not as if Boehner doesn’t agree that his right flank has become detrimental to the party. “We have,” he said in that CBS exit interview, “members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know, are never going to happen.”

And he knows they cannot be allowed to control the House and represent the face of the GOP if the party is to be competitive in presidential election years. Yet he is allowing that to happen. Abdication doesn’t remove the tumor. The cancer attacks whomever comes next.

I have no doubt that a full-blown confrontation would be as brutal as chemotherapy. Boehner was not wrong that his allies would face primary challenges. Several could lose. What would emerge after the civil war is uncertain. But letting the Freedom Caucus cancer metastasize is an untenable prospect for a major political party.

What’s maddening about this Republican rift is how small the ideological gap is between the factions. This is not a Whig Party torn apart over slavery. That schism led to the creation of the Republican Party. One hundred and sixty years later, the Grand Old Party is breaking apart, not over fundamental philosophic disagreement but over tactics.

And not even the tactics of winning, but the tactics of losing-- how Republicans should handle proposals that cannot survive a Senate filibuster or presidential veto. By putting party unity above all, nearly everyone in the party lost. John Boehner lost his job. Kevin McCarthy lost his ambitions. The party as a whole lost its chance to prove it can govern competently.

Republicans may try to paper-over the rift yet again, praying that Rep. Paul Ryan has the credibility to keep the Freedom Caucus in line. But you can’t remove a cancer with a faith healer.
But with the really craziest of the extremists Ryan has no credibility whatsoever. And that is very upsetting to elderly Republicans. "Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive," said Tom Cole, a very conservative Republican from southern Oklahoma. "Paul Ryan has played a major role in advancing the conservative cause and creating the Republican House majority. His critics are not true conservatives. They are radical populists who neither understand nor accept the institutions, procedures and traditions that are the basis of constitutional governance." What Cole, an old fashioned Republican and ally of Boehner, doesn't understand about the new brand of Ted Cruz neo-fascist Republicans dominating his party is that "constitutional governance," itself, which depends on compromise, is viewed with outright hostility and fury.

Over the weekend Matthew Yglesias, writing at Vox suggested one of the options open to House Republicans now "would be for the House to simply not elect a new speaker. Boehner has made it clear that he remains in office as speaker until a successor is chosen, and if the GOP caucus can't pick a successor, that means Boehner sticks around. Since Boehner is already in office, he doesn't need 218 votes. And since he isn't trying to keep his job, he doesn't need to worry about placating the right. A Boehner-led House would simply do very little. 'Must-pass' measures like the debt ceiling, appropriations bills, and disaster aid would simply be hashed out between the White House and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and then Boehner could bring them to the floor, where they would pass with a mix of GOP and Democratic votes... A more creative, but structurally similar, scenario would involve 50 or so House Democrats joining with the bulk of Republicans to elect an orthodox conservative Republican to serve as speaker. In exchange, the GOP caucus would need to agree to buck the Freedom Caucus crowd on must-pass legislation and agree to bring these compromise bills to the floor. Legislative outcomes would be essentially identical to the ones we've been getting, but there would be less posturing and drama, and we would simply skip to the part where McConnell-Obama compromises pass the House despite opposition from many House Republicans."

This is the time when a competent DCCC would come into play-- and elect a Democratic House. Unfortunately, a decade of unbelievably bad leadership from Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen and Steve Israel has rendered the DCCC so incapable of winning and so structurally compromised that there's a better chance that the country will wind up with an honest-to-God Stalinist government than there is that the DCCC will come even close to winning back a House, something that should be nearly a sure bet at this point. Pelosi's worst failing was the DCCC and it has been absolutely catastrophic for the Democrats... and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The Republicans could turn the House floor into a real life scene from a chillingly gruesome Hieronymus Bosch painting and Steve Israel and his sock-puppet Ben Ray Luján would lose anyway.

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At 5:07 PM, Blogger Roger said...

Here's what I find maddening: "He let them learn the hard way that a government shutdown would hurt Republican poll numbers." But the shutdown *didn't* hurt Republican poll numbers. I can't understand why I see this pipe dream so much. Following the shutdown, the Republicans won a majority in the Senate. This is from "hurting their poll numbers?" The shutdown certainly should have hurt their poll numbers, and maybe in a sane country would have, but it didn't. You're right about the DCCC though, and Debbie Wasserman-Schulz delenda est. Why this was not obvious to everybody in the Democratic party is baffling.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Empy said...

The DCCC is and has been a total lost cause for many years. They prefer to loose to a republican than allow a liberal democrat win.

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Emphyrio said...

Bill Scher is actually quite the liberal, behind the longtime blog Liberal Oasis and a honcho over at Campaign for America's Future. He's just partial to realistic compromise and horse-trading, and sees no good for the country coming from the Republicans mired in nihilistic dysfunction. We're stuck with a Republican congress at least until 2020, thanks to gerrymandering; four years of chaos and defaults and shutdowns could do a lot of damage.

I think you may have been misled by his nonsnarky advice, which strikes me as similar to what you might say to your repugnant, unstable, alcoholic brother-in-law whom your sister refuses to divorce.


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